Freedom of Speech and Public Safety
In the midst of the debate about guns that has been, if not always raging, at least smoldering, since just before the Supreme Court handed down the Heller ruling, something key has been overlooked, if not outright ignored. It’s odd, because one of the justices, Roberts I think (I’ll check later and correct myself in need be), said that the Second Amendment is unique because unlike the First Amendment, the question can be one of life or death.
None of the lawyers called him on that statement during oral arguments and I have heard nothing about it since, from any source, even after the recent bombings in Boston.
The issue, if you didn’t pick up on it, is that the First Amendment protects instructions on how to make bombs, not to mention guns. I think the issue of distributing files that can be used to 3D print a functional firearm will be protected, as the countless sources of bomb making information out there are.
Keep in mind that the worst attack on a school in the US, was not carried out with guns, but with bombs, and that was well before the advent of the internet, way back in 1927. Roberts was simply not correct in stating that the First Amendment is a different animal. I’m not saying that I support restrictions on speech, but those who support nonsense like “assault weapon” bans and magazine capacity limits because of their perceived dangerousness need to stand back and take a long hard look at what their feelings are regarding speech limitations.
I have to point out that while so called assault weapons are no more dangerous in any way than any other semi-auto rifle, bomb making information is clearly a more dangerous kind of speech than most others. Are we prepared to let the government press it’s heel harder down on Lady Liberty’s throat? How much latitude should the government have in determining what is and is not too dangerous to be covered by the preexisting rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights? I say very little.
Freedom is a dirty business and people need to decide how much they want. They need to remember that once that choice is made, history shows us that without major, and often violent, intervention that an outbound flow of freedom is seldom reversed. Give up freedoms now and you are making that choice for everyone else that follows you, what gives you the right?
You can check out this link if you want a really good example of dangerous, but rightly protected speech. I think speech can certainly be held and used against you when you have committed, are committing, or are planning to commit criminal acts, but the speech itself is not and should not be a crime. When free speech is outlawed, only outlaws will speak freely.