I happened to be flicking through the channels this past weekend. C-SPAN 3 was showing a 1958 interview of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas for the ABC show Mike Wallace Interviews. Wallace asked Douglas, who was very strong on First Amendment rights, where he stood on the classic case of a man yelling fire in a crowded theater. Douglas didn’t take the interviewer’s bait. He stated that it would be an incitement to riot, that it was illegal and should be illegal. That example is one often used to show that there are restrictions, even on things as fundamental to the American experience as the Bill of Rights.
As a recipient of a lot of right-wing material, you would think that the Second Amendment was imperiled. This is just a taste:
Dear Concerned American,
The great pay-back has begun, and it’s going to be ugly.
Liberals in Congress are paying back the anti-gun extremists who put them in office, and Barack Obama’s H.R. 45 is the first step…
…and it’s a big step….
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that gun registration is the first step on the road toward totalitarian confiscation of all firearms by a federal power.
In fact, the most brutal dictators of the last century were famous for their gun registration and confiscation schemes.
It was easy work for Hitler’s brown-shirt Gestapo to confiscate the firearms of German citizens because years earlier, well-meaning liberals had forced all guns to be registered with the government … all in the name of safety.
When Hitler came to take their guns, he had a list of who owned every gun and where they lived!
Ah, the Hitler comparison. Again.
If a two-day waiting period, a written exam and a gun tax aren’t infringing our rights, I don’t know what is!
This harangue despite a major victory in the Supreme Court last session.
Here’s the thing: the Second Amendment rights aren’t without limits either. We restrict guns to minors, to convicted felons (boy, I wish that actually worked better) and certain other groups of people.
Which brings me to those folks who somehow believe that packing heat when the President comes to town should be protected. Here’s, of all people, “Morning Joe” Scarborough on the August 23, 2009 edition of NBC’s Meet the Press:
And, and it seems to me that leaders on both parties, Democrats and Republicans alike, have a–have an affirmative responsibility to step forward and speak out against this hate speech and speak out against people carrying guns to rallies…As a guy with a 100 percent lifetime rating with the NRA, I can tell you that not only hurts those of us who believe in Second Amendment rights, it makes the job of the Secret Service so much harder and our law enforcement personnel so much harder.
Joe is, of course, right. I think it’s insane for antagonistic people to be packing heat around the President. Think of the history of this country: four Presidents assassinated, all by the gun; at least five attempts on Presidents using firearms. Not to mention two prominent candidates in my lifetime shot four years apart: Bobby Kennedy in 1968 (assassinated) and George Wallace in 1972 (paralyzed).
My great fear ids that either the President will get shot at (or worse), or the Secret Service will end up shooting a guy with a gun when he makes what they perceive to be a threatening move; the brouhaha after THAT debacle would make the summer town meetings look like a picnic.
I’d rather the Secret Service restrict the use of firearms around POTUS rather than have him risk his life trying to prove that he isn’t going to take away their guns; they already believe he’s stripping them of their weapons regardless.