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.
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: