Guns at Political Events: A Chilling Effect on the First Amendment

Guns at Political Events: A Chilling Effect on the First Amendment

From the standpoint of the U.S. Constitution, the heavy-handed treatment of liberal school teachers, librarians, and county supervisors and the more deferential approach to armed right-wing protestors, makes no sense. While there would be no threat to the Constitution in the months and years ahead if dozens or hundreds of school teachers showed up at Republican political events wearing T-shirts with political messages that did not incite violence, the threat of violence would be extreme if as many armed right-wing protestors appeared at Democratic events. Even in the absence of actual violence, the implicit threat of violence by the appearance of armed right-wing protestors represents an unacceptable chilling effect on the First Amendment rights of Americans.

Black’s Law Dictionary defines “chilling effect” as “the result of a law or practice that seriously discourages the exercise of a constitutional right, such as … the right of free speech.” Who could credibly argue that the appearance of armed right-wing protestors at Democratic political events would have no chilling effect on the First Amendment rights of Democrats to attend those events, and to express their political preferences with regard to healthcare, global warming, or gun-control? Mustering the courage to show up and speak up at Democratic political events in the presence of armed right-wing protestors obviously poses an undue burden on the First Amendment rights of Democrats, including on Democratic presidents, congressional officials, and candidates for office.

Nor does the alleged Second Amendment right of an individual to a firearm trump the First Amendment rights of Americans. While the federal courts have treated First Amendment rights as fundamental to the Constitution, the same courts have not treated any Second Amendment right in a similar manner.

The Congress and the president have a compelling public interest and constitutional duty to protect the First Amendment, and the safety of elected officials and their supporters, by outlawing the discretion of gun owners to appear at political events with their weapons.

(Hat tip: Paul Gilroy)

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: