Repeal the Second Amendment? How about the First?


Editor’s Note: The original version of this article misspelled Andrew O’Connor’s name.

Even before the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there were calls for getting rid of the Second Amendment, like the letter to the editor from Andrew J. O’Connor in the Boulder Camera a couple weeks ago.

O’Connor didn’t raise any new arguments for repealing the Second Amendment — he thinks it’s a dangerous anachronism — but he at least deserves points for candor. Outright repeal of the Second Amendment has always been the ultimate objective of the gun control movement.

Repeal the Second Amendment, huh?

Why stop there?

While we’re at it, let’s get rid of the Amendment that is the real source of violence in the United States.

The First Amendment.

The First Amendment is shot through with so-called “freedoms” whose irresponsible use causes violence, injury and death on a scale that eclipses anything brought about by the Second Amendment.

Start with freedom of the press. Newspapers and TV news operations are directly complicit in massacres like the one at Sandy Hook. Their complicity flows from the massive, unrelenting, hyperventilating, voyeuristic coverage they give such stories. The coverage goes on and on and on — and serves as the incubus that gives rise to dozens of equally deranged copycat assassins.

Remember Columbine? The Denver papers and much of the national media didn’t just cover the story; they wallowed in it. A year after the massacre they were still running front-page stories about it — which collectively served to turn Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the delusional little twerps who perpetrated the crime, into larger-than-life role models for latter-day delusional little twerps like James Holmes and Adam Lunza.

The way to prevent, or at least reduce, this self-perpetuating, evergrowing wave of mass murder is obvious: Censor the papers and the electronic media and don’t let them give massacre stories the Columbine/ Aurora/Sandy Hook treatment.

If you call the mainstream media on this sort of conduct, they will tell you that “they are only doing their job,” start mouthing pious bullshit about “the people’s right to know” and the sanctity of the First Amendment. Yeah, sure. Tell that to the grieving parents after the next school or church or multiplex strafing.

Of course, the mainstream media’s charming habit of producing infomercials for mass murder is hardly the only way the First Amendment causes violence, nor even the most important. In fact, in the larger scheme of things it is relatively minor.

The First Amendment protects hate speech.

Ever hear of a book called Mein Kampf? If you own a Kindle, you can buy it on Amazon for the princely sum of $0.99. Ditto The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. That’s the one that accuses the Jews of ritually killing Christian children and using their blood to bake their Passover Matzos.

These texts enabled World War II and the Holocaust, and they are still readily available; they can be had for a single click. It is easier to get them than, what’s the analogy we’re looking for here, ah, yes: It’s easier to get them than pulling the trigger on a gun. Thanks to the First Amendment.

There are thousands of neo-Nazi, neo-Communist, neo-Syndicalist, neo-Nihilist, neo-Anarchist and latter-day lunatic websites pumping out similar venom for contemplation by malleable young minds like Adam Lunza’s.

And the publishers and the webmasters glibly reply: “Freedom of the press, baby. Ever hear of the First Amendment?”

And let’s not forget the entertainment side of the media.

American popular entertainment is not merely shot through with the glorification of violence; it is defined by the glorification of violence. It has been that way for more than a century.

One hundred years ago, parents anguished over pulp fiction. Then came violent movies, violent radio shows, violent comic books and violent television. And today it’s computer gaming, the maraschino cherry on the poison sundae.

Hey, you don’t suppose all that “entertainment” helps shape the world view of weird little kids like Adam Lunza or James Holmes or Jared Loughner, do you? Nah, of course not. It’s just good, clean fun. Those kids are perfectly harmless until they get their hands on a gun.

Well, where do you think they got their ideas about what you ought to do with a gun? From the NRA, which spends millions on teaching gun safety, or from liberals in the entertainment industry?

Speaking of violence caused by the First Amendment, let’s not forget speaking. No, not public oratory, which has produced more than its fair share of riots and lynchings. I am thinking of the casual utterances of ordinary people.

How many bar fights are preceded by bar arguments that spin out of control? How many cases of domestic violence are preceded by domestic arguments? How much racism, sexism and homophobia, starts with hate speech?

Almost all of it, and what’s more, everyone knows it.

Want to stop all that shit? Repeal the First Amendment, which will allow society to intervene before the words turn into the crime.

Defenders of the First Amendment would probably argue that there’s a big difference between words and bullets — and they would be right. Words are much more dangerous.

The aphorism we all learn in kindergarten — sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me — is a lie.

Words cause actions. That’s why we speak them. Words are more dangerous than guns, because words are what cause the guns to speak.

So is there any argument that can be made for not repealing the Dangerous Amendments?

I can think of one.

Like the Second Amendment, and most other Amendments in the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment is in the Constitution because it protects individual freedoms.

Freedoms empower people, and like most things that empower people, freedoms are inherently dangerous.

Words, and guns, are both protected by the Constitution, not despite the fact that they are dangerous, but because they are dangerous. The fact that they are dangerous is what makes them powerful and empowering — and what makes the people who have access to them free.

Progressives who want to repeal or emasculate the Second Amendment in the hope of obtaining a few small scraps of safety should think long and hard about what they are wishing for, because repealing or modifying the Second Amendment lays the ideological foundation for doing the same thing to the far more empowering, and far more dangerous, First Amendment.


This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.