The Tucson Safeway Massacre, where Jared Loughner shot and killed several people, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl, and severely wounded Gabrielle Giffords, is causing an assault on civil rights from some members of Congress.
Almost inevitably, the shooting is sparking more calls for restrictions on gun rights. Arizona has some of the most lenient gun laws in the country, including the right to conceal carry. Jared Loughner legally bought his 9mm Glock, apparently having passed a background check despite his various run-ins with the police due to bizarre, disruptive behavior at the community college he is attending.
Initial moves in the direction of restricting gun rights appears to be a move in Congress to restore the so-called “Brady Law” which, among other things, bans magazines of more than 10 rounds.
Ironically, Gabrielle Giffords is a firm supporter of gun rights and the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution.
More ominously, Congressman Robert Brady, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, intends to introduce a bill that will make it a federal offensive to “–use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a federal official or member of Congress.” This proposed bill seems to be aimed not just at overt death threats or threats to do harm, but things like the now-famous election map put out by Sarah Palin that placed several politicians in cross hairs, targeting them for election defeat.
There is no evidence that Loughner was even aware of the cross hairs map, not to mention having been influenced by it. Democrats have also used similar graphics to target politicians they had wished to see defeated at the polls.
The bill proposed by Brady clearly does violence to the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution. What can be “perceived as threatening or inciting violence” by one person can be totally innocuous to another. Congressman Brady does not seem to be providing an objection criterion for a court to decide what kind of speech would be covered by his bill.
A bill such as that being proposed by Congressman Brady could actually pass in the fear and hysteria following the Tucson Safeway Massacre. Every member of Congress, hearing of Gabrielle Giffords being gunned down, can see themselves in a similar situation. It would be almost understandable that they would panic and pass a law that would be clearly, by any objective criteria, unconstitutional.
Hopefully, though, cooler heads will prevail and these assaults on the 1st and 2nd Amendments will be turned back.
Sources: Giffords shooting sparks gun law debate, Zachary Roth, Yahoo News, January 9th, 2011
Dem planning bill that would outlaw threatening lawmakers, Peter Schroeder, The Hill, January 9th, 2011