Does the Second Amendment Trump the First Amendment?

18 responses.

Does the Second Amendment Trump the First Amendment?

By now anyone not living under a rock knows all about the horrific school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 14 teenagers and three adults were killed in cold blood when Nikolas Cruz sprayed the South Florida school with an AR-15 assault rifle.

Regardless of your opinion of what happened or what should be done, you’ve been discussing the massacre with your friends and your co-workers and you’ve seen endless debates and discussions on TV news, in the newspaper, and on social media.

In fact, the only place they’re NOT discussing the gun issue is exactly where they should be talking about it; in the Florida state legislature.

That’s right, the Florida state legislature. That’s because less than a week after one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history happened in Florida, the state House of Representatives voted down a measure to discuss the assault weapons ban.

First Amendment Rights. Second Amendment Rights.

Yes, you read that correctly. The state House of Representatives voted down a measure to discuss the assault weapons ban. They didn’t vote down an assault weapons ban. They didn’t vote down a measure to re-implement the assault weapons ban. Florida state representatives voted down a measure to even talk about the situation.

The vote was on a suggestion to consider a motion to ban assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. Not to ban the weapons, mind you, just to discuss the possibility. But instead of allowing such an important debate to take place, the House defeated the motion 36-71. Amazingly, the “no” voters included nine South Florida Republicans – the very lawmakers who represent the area where the slaughter took place.

The list of Miami representatives who voted “no” includes Michael Bileca, Jose Oliva, Carlos Trujillo, Bryan Avila, Daniel Anthony Perez, Jeanette Nunez, Manny Diaz Jr., and Holly Raschein. Representatives Bill Hager and Rick Roth of Palm Beach County also voted to shut down the conversation. And even more shamelessly, Representative George Moraitis of Broward County (where Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is located) callously skipped the vote altogether.

From the Miami New Times: “According to Associated Press reporter Gary Fineout… ‘a reasonable person might assume a state rocked by a gun massacre might at least let the full House vote on the idea — but not Florida’s Republican-dominated, NRA-beholden House.’”

Remember, we’re not talking about the legislature refusing gun control or refusing to vote on gun control. We’re talking about the legislature refusing to even DISCUSS the problem and possible solutions. Or as I see it, the legislature simply decided the Second Amendment (the right to bear arms) matters while the First Amendment (freedom of speech) does not.

Within the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment requires only 45 words to assure all Americans of their significant liberties:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Based on the simplicity and ubiquity of the First Amendment, Americans think freedom of speech is a basic right that we all enjoy. Unfortunately, the Florida legislature clearly thinks otherwise.

In his prescient novel 1984, George Orwell predicted a future where human rights – including freedom of speech – do not exist anymore. As Orwell wrote: “Whatever the (legislature) holds to be truth is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the (legislature).”

Since the Florida state legislature hasn’t actually read the Bill of Rights, I can’t imagine they’ve read 1984 either. Regardless, while George Orwell may have predicted this trampling of our rights coming true in 1984, the Florida state legislature simply moved the date to 2018. And we will all suffer the consequences of their egregious behavior.

If you want to see more about this subject, here’s last week’s CNNi interview with Richard Quest where we talked about companies ending their NRA sponsorships:

  18 Responses

  1. F. U. Liberals
    on February 28, 2018

    What part of “SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED” do you not understand? 56 Million people worldwide have been murdered worldwide by gun controlling gov’ts. If you don’t like America or it’s freedom why don’t you go live in N.Korea, Russia, Cuba? And take your Hollywood friends with you!

  2. Bob Ross
    on February 28, 2018

    Thoughtful exposition on a topic important to us all. On banning assault rifles, I have contacted my legislators (cheered the heroes and booed the villains). It was great that you put this out there.

    Bob Ross

  3. on February 28, 2018

    Thank you Bruce for bringing this horrific news to light, where the FL state legislature shows up with nothing. Nothing to discuss, no vote, nada, zilch.

    Their paychecks should reflect this non-action, this abhorrent misuse of voting rights to even DISCUSS the subject at the pinnacle of sensitivity, at the precise time when dialogue and sensible gun and firearms, ammunition, and age limits MUST be brought forth and handled, discussed and thought through.

    I’m sure we’re all appalled, and yet, even with protestors out in Tallahassee, even with local Broward representatives abstaining or NO voting, even with a US CONGRESSMAN shot in broad daylight on a baseball field, inertia and inactivity reign supreme. To be so blatently bought by the NRA lobby is in itself a criminal act, is it not??

    Makes an otherwise nonviolent like myself feel like “going postal” with frustration over the lack of “balls” and leadership in both the State government and on the Federal level.

    Today marks two weeks since the Parkland murders and thanks to the teens, we’ve at least seen some major corporations take action even when elected officials continue to kick the can, not take a stand, and do nothing productive with their voice and vote.

    It’s disgusting and March 24th marches aren’t soon enough.

    Keep up the dialogue, maybe we can get some ” I’ll shoot this dog, if you don’t take action” branding going to incite action by our elected, anemic, impotent leaders??

    What do you think will have the tipping point actually tip?

  4. John Lentini
    on February 28, 2018

    The real problem is clearly laid out in this New Yorker article:

  5. Mace
    on February 28, 2018

    Bruce, you summarized a distasteful situation accurately. These politicians no longer even pretend to care about what their constituents think or want. Pretty disheartening. We’ll see how the electorate feels in November. I’ve never voted along party lines, but this is making it very easy.

  6. on February 28, 2018

    It’s a shame that the Sunshine State doesn’t believe in Government in the Sunshine. Our Constitution was born out of sprinted and sometimes contentious debate. Today the party in power controls the discussion and therefore controls the exercising of free speech. SAD

  7. Gene Olazabal
    on February 28, 2018

    The people have the responsibility in a democracy to vote in or vote out our representatives, senators, governors and even the President of the United States.
    The inaction to even discuss a problem in our State’s Legislature gives clear evidence that the wrong people are there now and should be replaced. I hope your timely article wakes the people of Florida up. We deserve better.

  8. on February 28, 2018

    Hi Bruce: Read your posts always, although have not responded lately. This one deserves more. Most Americans, I think, are willing to compromise over the NRA’s objections. The more firepower anyone wants, the more hoops they’ll have to jump through, for a start. Many more hoops. It does get tricky to ban all automatic weapons for everyone when the historical basis for the 2nd Amendment was to guard against the tyranny of government itself (Fidel Castro being the prime close-by example).

    What I personally would like to see is more focus on the 1st Amendment. And here the water is extremely murky. You are not much younger than me, so you remember when Playboy’s airbrushed centerfolds were the most scandalous thing a 6th grade boy could get hold of. Today, there’s no sex act ever dreamed of that any grade school kid can’t manage to view on his I phone. Same with violence, gore, and murder. Today’s video “games” make susceptible brains think that taking a human life is hardly worth the effort to push a button–or pull a trigger. A Supreme Court judge once opined about pornography: “I know it when I see it.” I think many people would say the same today about extreme acts of violence in movies or videos. Unfortunately, there is no effort I can discern to deal with either porn or violence because it would be extremely DIFFICULT to stem the tide of a current that’s been swelling since you and I were kids. Plus both porn and violence are even bigger industries that guns.

    What do you think? Can we deal with school shootings and other such extreme acts just by taking on the NRA’s refusal to compromise?

    Best regards,

    Andy Parrish

  9. on February 28, 2018

    Hi Bruce,
    I think you’ve found a trigger spot. The legislature voted to not _discuss_ the issue in front of the victims, essentially signalling that the lives of their slain classmates were not worthy of a policy debate. I believe we are in the midst of a sea-change. Note that common sense is the radical rallying cry. Now when did we hear that before.
    All the best,

  10. on February 28, 2018

    You are right on target.

  11. on February 28, 2018

    Sorry, my other comment didn’t go through. The only way the politicians will feel it is when we go to the polls.

  12. on February 28, 2018

    Bruce suggested I post this, too,since it’s somewhat connected to this thread. I sent it to the Herald, the WSJ and the Atlantic this past July, with no response. Term limits could be 6, 12 or 18 years:

    Term Limits:  A Possible Path Forward

    We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, need to do something.  If we don’t, we may end up not having a United States at all but Red States and Blue States living under the same roof but not speaking to, only shouting at each other.  So, what can we the People do that is actually doable to start re-forming our more perfect Union?
    First, we must recognize that we still have at least one thing in common.  How many times in recent years have you gone into the voting booth and thought “I wish there was a button that said, ‘Flush them all’…except for the ones who are more like me.”  The problem is, they are.  They are exactly like you and me, not perfect, but with biases and aspirations, just like ours.  In other words, they are human beings, and imperfect human beings all have a built-in survival mechanism that asks, “What’s in it for me?”   Being elected to a paid political office offers a lot.  Today, very few who have been elected to those offices willingly step down.  Incumbency is a large and expensive obstacle for any challenger to overcome, and prevents many good people from even throwing their hat in the ring.
    This was not always the case.  When these United States began 230 years ago, it was inconceivable that anyone would want to be a “career” politician.  It meant leaving home and family, and traveling long wearying distances for little or no compensation and few benefits other than the thanks (or curses) of your fellow citizens.  Today, being elected to a paid public office, especially the most coveted ones in Washington, brings such a cornucopia of personal rewards that it becomes a huge part of one’s job, consciously or not, to keep it. “Doing the job” can mean—more and more—fundraising to get re-elected.
    Which brings us back to what We the People must do to form a more perfect Union.  First threshold:  Is our current system broken?  Answer: A house divided against itself cannot stand.   Second threshold:  Is it even possible to change the system, given that the levers of change are controlled by the same people who could lose the positions they want to keep?  Answer: Yes, and our Constitution lays out the path to do it.
    Article V of the Constitution provides in part that “…on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, (the Congress) shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which…shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress.”  
    The process of amending our Constitution was purposely made difficult in order to avoid frivolous attempts to change it, but it’s been done successfully seventeen times since the first ten amendments (commonly known as the Bill of Rights) were added.
    What might a proposed Amendment look like if We the People want to be able to change our elected representatives more frequently than the current system allows?   Again, we have our Constitution to guide us. If, say, 18 years is chosen as the maximum term in office, we can follow the language of Amendment XXII by substituting as a member of the House of Representatives or Senate each time “office of the President” appears in Amendment XXII:

    Section 1
    No person shall (serve as)  a member of the House of Representatives or Senate more than (18 years), and no person (shall serve as) a member of the House of Representatives or Senate for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected as a member of the House of Representatives or Senate more than once. But this Article shall not apply to any person as a member of the House of Representatives or Senate when this Article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding (office) as a member of the House of Representatives or Senate, or acting as a member of the House of Representatives or Senate, during the term within which this Article becomes operative from holding (office) as a member of the House of Representatives or Senate or acting as a member of the House of Representatives or Senate during the remainder of such term.

    Section 2.
    This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission to the States by the Congress.

    Such an Amendment would give members of the House of Representatives and members of the Senate a maximum of 18 years in office. That’s a long time but not a career.
    Would such an Amendment when ratified stop campaign finance abuse?  No, but it might help an elected Senator or Representative keep the People’s business first in mind.  Would it stop gerrymandering?  No, but new Senators and Representatives being elected more often should help prevent “safe districts” from becoming permanently safe.  Would we come to miss the experience and wisdom that career politicians claim they provide?  Possibly, but there’s a safeguard: one failed Amendment has already been repealed in the past. Would it give even more power to unelected Congressional and committee staff members? Also possible.

    Most important, though, would constantly refreshing our Congressmen and Senators enable them to focus more on We the People’s business than on getting re-elected?  If you decide it would, then act on the right that Amendment I gives to each and every one of us “to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” There are petitions already available on line to require term limits.  We the People can do this.

    Anthony R. Parrish, Jr. July 20, 2017

  13. on February 28, 2018

    Why the name calling, F.U. Liberals? Disagreeing with the way my country is going is a strong example of loving my country. Peaceful dissent IS patriotism. Continuing to support a deluded belief that Continually allows innocent children to be slaughtered is unpatriotic. And to use your argument, what part of “A WELL REGULATED MILITIA” do YOU not understand? And are you talking about Hollywood, FL, right near Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School?

  14. on February 28, 2018

    Bruce, I compliment you for bringing this out to the world, especially to Floridians who get to vote. It’s beyond amazing to see all that is happening in the USA. It’s like a bad TV show.
    I’m cheering on the young people who are fed-up with the adults actions, and lack of action. It won’t be long before they are old enough to vote, and they are rallying young people all over the country.

  15. on March 1, 2018

    Unbelievable but true – democracy in the US is in trouble

  16. Meg Gerrish
    on March 2, 2018


  17. Tim Daniels
    on March 2, 2018

    We MUST get the big money, the dark money, out of politics. Until we do, well financed special interest groups will dictate the dialogue.
    And Bruce, I salute you for posting this. You are far more courageous than those spineless representatives.

  18. Scott Cochrane
    on March 6, 2018

    Bruce, Hats off! Why can’t we even talk about it!

    As you know I lived in Europe for over 2 decades. The correlation of gun control and violence is more than statistically significant. Yet here we are in the “Land of the Free & Brave” where we’re not even brave enough to have the discussion.

    Shameful, shocking, and highly disappointing of who we have become. And YES, we should be able to talk about it!

    A million thanks!!!

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