Prior restraints on speech and guns enable tyranny

Prior restraints on speech and guns enable tyranny

June 14, 11:36 AM ยท

Courtesy Oleg Volk, A Human RightWe've seen how some would like to exploit the Holocaust Museum shooting to erode liberty. We've seen how some would like to enact preventive measures against what they perceive as "hate speech" to the point of rounding up it's "promoters."

Which brings us to a question I said I'd explore today: At what point do others have a right to intervene with our freedom of expression? And what does that have to do with "gun rights"?

A piece I wrote ten years ago opens the door to that conversation:

You CAN yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater

Even the First Amendment doesn't give us an unrestricted right to free speech, say those who would eliminate the Second. You can be sued for libel or slander if you defame someone in print or speech. You can't threaten people. And you can't yell "fire!" in a crowded theater.

Ergo, "reasonable" gun control laws are not only necessary, but constitutional.

As usual, such calculated weasel-wording will elicit nods from audiences conditioned to accept anything uttered by a talking head or printed under a screaming headline as the final authority. And, as usual, if one probes a bit beneath the surface, the misdirection and outright deception represented by this line of thinking isn't hard to ferret out.

The first flawed premise is that the Bill of Rights "gives" anything at all. It does not; it merely articulates specified (but not all) unalienable rights that are inherent to the condition of being human, that predate the formation of government or the adoption of any constitution, and that may not properly be deprived from full enfranchisement save when they are abused to the injury of others.

In other words, you can't be muzzled beforehand. You CAN yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater. Any time you feel like it. The government can impose no prior restraint on anything that you may say or write. To do so violates your unalienable rights under the Constitution; the only ones bound by prior restraints in such matters are the government.

I would, however, advise that there actually be a fire. Because if there's not, it's proper for your reckless action to meet with a penalizing response. And if someone is threatened or injured, it's just to expect punishment for your actions and restitution for your victims.

But you can still threaten your neighbors and coworkers, and shout from the rooftops whatever fabricated slur you want about anybody you choose, or publish libelous remarks impugning the good name of the most exalted among us. Any time at all. For instance, if I want to say that Rosie O'Donnell is a...wait, that's not a good example--it has to be untrue.

The point being, you need to do the crime before you do the time. If you harass, intimidate or terrorize someone with menacing words or demeanor, or if what you say or write is false and done with malice or reckless disregard, you've got a world of hurt coming your way, and deservedly so.

Like it or not, and those who would disregard it most certainly do not, the same holds true for the Second Amendment. You bet there are legitimate and just restraints that society can impose once you menace or harm someone, or otherwise prove yourself to be incompetent or untrustworthy. But until such time as you do, your right to keep and bear arms may not be infringed.

And like it or not, just as we can't require a permit for you to speak your mind, or impose a waiting period before you can purchase a newspaper, or demand that you register your video purchases, just as we can't pass laws prohibiting concealed crucifixes, the same holds true for guns--or at least should.

But that's not the same, decry the gun haters. The only purpose of guns is to kill!

Demonstrably not true, but so may words and ideas, unless you think the despots of the past and present have rounded up and dispatched their victims by themselves. And just as words can also provide deliverance, so too can guns. They do in this country on a daily basis, to the tune of up to 2.5 million times* a year.

This leads us to the final flawed premise; that any of the 20,000* "reasonable" infringements constructed in the minds of headline-seizing politicians, and enacted to date at the federal, state and local level, have made society safer, or have kept the predators among us from wreaking carnage at will.

Is there anyone who seriously thinks law number 20,001 will be the one that finally works?


8 years 40 weeks ago, 5:38 PM


runawaygun762's picture

Vice President
Join Date:
Nov 2008
Richland, MO, United States

Certain categories of weapons should be prohibited from civilian ownership, those being nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. Others should be restricted, those being high explosives. Other than that, small arms ownership should not be infringed upon by the federal government.

"I have always been a soldier. I have known no other life. The calling of arms, I have followed from boyhood. I have never sought another." From The Virtues of War, by Steven Pressfield.
8 years 40 weeks ago, 6:47 PM


LLE's picture

Join Date:
Jul 2008
United States

runawaygun and I discussed this a long while ago, when we were "crossing swords", and I want to clarify that I am not desirous of starting a pissing contest, only a discussion. However--let's start with Mr. Volk's assertion about the second amendment "may not be infringed", until you prove yourself to be "incompetent or untrustworthy".
Among the fundamental unalienable rights articulated [second section of the constitution]are "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness".
Now consider, for example, that THE PEOPLE of State X believe their lives, liberty and their pursuit of happiness rights might reasonably be threatened or perhaps even denied in some instances, without reasonably crafted legal protection[s]concerning firearm ownership and usage. So, they permit citizens who properly own firearms to carry concealed handguns, after having "proven themselves" with prescribed training to be competent and trustworthy AHEAD of time.
The question here is--Is that an infringement under the 2A? My own opinion is that since there is no constitutional weighting or importance ranking of the enumerated unalienable rights, the second amendment cannot trump Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. This is, in effect a US jurisprudence stand-off. I cherish my second amendment rights, but I also believe that if we defend them with vigor, we must also defend the other rights of our fellow citizens with as much vigor, or we will lose our credibility as Patriots.
What are YOUR thoughts??

Too old to fight, Too old to run, guess that's why I carry a gun! "would someone show this asshole the way out of town".[Rabbi Avram Belinski-aka "The Frisco Kid"]
8 years 40 weeks ago, 6:54 PM


samD's picture

Join Date:
Aug 2008
Green Valley, Free State of Arizona, United States

We must defend all, or we are no better than the Socialists trying to take over this country!
Why won't the ACLU, that we as taxpayers pay for, defend our 2nd Ammendment Rights?
How can they selectively say we will defend them, but not you?
We must tread lightly and carry the big sticks.
We need a leader who will defend the Constitution and all Ammendments equally.
We also need less laws made and more laws enforced.
God help me, if they try to take my rights.

8 years 40 weeks ago, 7:31 PM


Mark3030's picture

Lieutenant General
Join Date:
Mar 2009

all I can say is Amen! We must support the entire constitution

"the thrill of the hunt"
samD's picture
Posted by: samD
8 years 40 weeks ago

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