While the Seattle Times today is touting the importance of a “shield law” for investigative journalists, this week’s signing of the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty suggests American gun owners need some shielding from the government as well.
This discussion comes at an opportune moment, as the 28th annual Gun Rights Policy Conference opens this evening in Houston, Tex. As this column reported Wednesday, the GRPC tomorrow morning features a panel discussion about global gun control. Hosted by the Second Amendment Foundation and Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, the event brings together many leaders in the gun rights community, including Bellevue's Alan Gottlieb.
So, what do gun rights have to do with a shield law for reporters? These are constitutional issues dealing with the First and Second Amendments. Historically, the Seattle Times editorial page has not been very sympathetic to the Second Amendment. It has not shown any understanding of the parallels between heavy and intrusive regulation of firearms owners and the attempts to stifle journalists in their efforts to hold government accountable.
It’s not just a Seattle Times problem. Far too many in the Fourth Estate wear blinders. While insisting that reporters need protection from the government, to protect the privacy of their sources and prevent government demagoguery, the press sees no problem with such things as licensing, registration and even invasive background checks and waiting periods for gun owners. Like it or not, all of these things deal with erosions of constitutionally-protected and delineated civil rights; i.e. freedom of the press and the right to keep and bear arms.
Witness last December’s interactive map of gun owners’ residences in two New York counties in a Westchester County newspaper. It caused an uproar, yet the newspaper defended that outrageous privacy invasion, made possible by licensing and registration of gun owners by government.
Ted Bromund, Ph.D., a senior research fellow in Anglo-American Relations at the Heritage Foundation, wrote on Fox News Wednesday that there are worrisome consequences to the Arms Trade Treaty, signed that day by Secretary of State John Kerry. Bromund warned, “It’s commonly said that the Senate has to provide its advice and consent to any treaty – commonly known as ratifying it – before it can take effect. That’s true, but there’s a loophole. Once the U.S. signs a treaty, we hold ourselves bound not to violate the treaty’s ‘object and purpose’.”
Bromund’s piece is worth reading. It will raise alarms about the threats this treaty poses to the Second Amendment that are as important to the firearms community as a shield law is to the Seattle Times editorial page.
The Seattle Times probably would not understand why Maryland gun activists, supported by various firearms groups, have filed suit to prevent that state’s new gun restrictions from taking effect next week. To the Times and other editorial boards, this might be seen as another muscle flexing of the “gun lobby” and an affront to public safety.
No, it is an effort to stop the erosion of a constitutional right that is as important to gun owners as freedom of the press is to journalists.
Anti-gun media pundits delight in accusing the National Rifle Association and other groups, such as the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, of resisting any and all gun laws, and that is a demonstrable falsehood. It was the “gun lobby” that conceived and championed Three Strikes and Hard Time laws because they focused on punishing criminals — like the two men described by this story in today’s Seattle P-I.com for violating federal gun laws — while leaving law-abiding gun owners alone. Polling data suggests that many gun owners support background checks, so long as they are simple, quick and uniform across the country.
Here's something to consider: A uniform background check should be all the reason necessary to abolish a federal prohibition against cross-state handgun purchases. A citizen with a clean record in Seattle would still have the same clean record if he or she is standing in a gun shop in Sacramento, Sioux City or Savannah. Now that the Second Amendment has been incorporated to the states via the 14th Amendment, a citizen should be able to exercise his or her rights anywhere in the country, same as a reporter can follow a story no matter where it leads.
The press earlier this year was righteously indignant when it was revealed the government had been snooping into the communications of Associated Press reporters and other journalists. Fox News’ James Rosen was even labeled as a criminal suspect in a Justice Department probe of his sources.
Where is that indignation when it comes to laws in various jurisdictions that are deliberately designed to discourage citizens from exercising their right to have a firearm for personal protection? Where is the discourse about prohibitively expensive licensing fees?
The bottom line here is that the First Amendment should be the only shield law a reporter needs, and the Second Amendment should be the only “license” a government can require.