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When Netflix’s bland new psychological thriller “Secret Obsession” was released last week, I never expected keen political insights, let alone a unique cinematic twist. (Warning: Some spoilers ahead.) Under closer scrutiny, however, the film solidifies the need for individual rights, and presents a damning picture of California’s unconstitutional gun laws.
Much like a generic Lifetime drama, the film opens on a rainy California night, with the vulnerable Jennifer fleeing an anonymous, knife-wielding, male assailant. As the chase continues, it appears the stalker has a penchant for the supernatural—one moment standing menacingly in the rain, the next staring Jennifer down from a truck while reeling her car in with a winch.
At this particular moment in Jennifer’s story, a firearm used in self-defense might have changed this horror flick into a film highlighting female empowerment.
Unfortunately, California’s current gun laws prevent any sort of meaningful self-defense for the state’s most vulnerable populations. Pursuant to California penal codes, it is illegal for citizens to open carry firearms in any instance and concealed carry laws are extremely restrictive.
Currently, a county sheriff or municipal police chief may issue a concealed weapons permit (CCW), provided a citizen can prove he is of “good moral character,” is a resident in the county or city, has completed an eight-hour training course, and has a “good cause to justify the permit.”
As a matter of precedent, California law enforcement, such as the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, have maintained that carrying a concealed weapon is a privilege rather than a constitutional right guaranteed by the Second Amendment. In some counties, concern for personal safety or desire for self-defense is not enough to warrant the issue of a CCW.
Additionally, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Second Amendment does not apply specifically to concealed firearms, so despite California’s additional ban on open carry, the courts have maintained “good cause” requirements do not violate the Constitution—thus making it exceedingly difficult for our heroine Jennifer to obtain such a permit.
Those without a CCW must also carry a firearm directly to and from their vehicle in a locked container and transport the firearm in the vehicle’s trunk or a locked container within the vehicle, rendering it extremely ineffective in the event of an emergency.
Returning to our story, Jennifer effectively is deprived of her constitutional means to defend herself and forced to run headlong into the rain. Next she is struck by a stranger’s vehicle and transported to the hospital with an injured foot and, more crucially to the story, short term memory loss.
After Jennifer wakes up in the hospital with no memory of the horror that occurred, her husband Russell is there to fill in the blanks on her road to recovery. She is eventually discharged from the hospital and Russell whisks her away to a mansion in the California mountains, while local police detective Frank Page continues to examine the events surrounding the night of her accident.
Soon however, it is apparent that all is not what it seems. Russell has many secrets and Jennifer begins to have vivid flashbacks of a man being stabbed in her mansion by a masked figure cloaked in black. Detective Page wants answers, and the hospital nurse tries in vain to schedule a follow up appointment for Jennifer, but it appears cell phone signals are spotty in the mountains.
In a sudden, albeit obvious twist, we learn Russell isn’t who he claims to be. Rather than Jennifer’s loving husband, he is a stalker named Ryan, who murdered the real Russell. As Jennifer ineffectually tries to escape, Page zeroes in on the killer, and the plot comes to a head in a woodland trail.
Page’s gun tumbles to the ground, and he and Ryan wrestle in the dirt as Jennifer backs away on an injured leg. At the film’s climax, Jennifer grabs the detective’s pistol and shoots Ryan twice in the chest, putting the killer down for good. While Jennifer ultimately was able to stop the killer, her story is a cautionary tale for those who would restrict individual rights.
According to an October 2017 study in the American Journal of Public Health, approximately 3 million Americans carry a loaded firearm daily, and an estimated 9 million do so monthly, primarily citing protection as their reason for doing so. California’s current gun laws essentially prevent the state’s citizens from exercising the rights millions of Americans enjoy every day.
While “Secret Obsession” likely was not intended to be a political commentary on the infringement of constitutional rights, it is the perfect vehicle to illustrate why Americans must be allowed to exercise their God-given freedoms. When our rights are restricted, the nation is less strong, less free, and less secure, and society’s most vulnerable pay the price.
Photo Credit: Hybrid Films/Netflix