Saturday, January 12, 2013

Debate: Can the 1st Amendment Squash the 2nd Amendment?

The 1st Amendment is really a bundle of 5 rights that include freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right of the people to peaceably assemble and the right to petition the government to address a grievance. The 2nd Amendment is simple and explicitly clear: the right of the people to bear arms.

But what happens when 1st amendment utterances, even if benign but foolishly threatening, are perceived by law enforcement as a direct threat to human life and the government partially or wholly strips the potential perpetrator of their 2nd amendment rights?

This actually happened in Tennessee when a guy who was so furious with the government's threat to reign in 2nd amendment rights that he posted a youtube saying that he would “start killing people” if the government continued its pursuit to weaken and/or abolish gun rights.

DHS Suspends Patriots Handgun Permit Because Of Threatening Second Amendment Video
Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security has suspended the handgun carry permit of a local man who threatened to “start killing people” to protect his Second Amendment right.

In a statement released Friday officials said they had suspended the handgun carry permit of James Yeager, CEO of Tactical Response based on “material likelihood of risk of harm to the public”.

On Thursday, a video of Yeager angrily claiming he would “start killing people” if President Barack Obama moved forward with gun control measures began to go viral on the internet.

“The number one priority for our department is to ensure the public’s safety. Mr. Yeager’s comments were irresponsible, dangerous, and deserved our immediate attention. Due to our concern, as well as that of law enforcement, his handgun permit was suspended immediately. We have notified Mr. Yeager about the suspension today via e-mail. He will receive an official notification of his suspension through the mail,” Commissioner Bill Gibbons said.

Yeager, CEO of Tactical Response, a company that offers training to civilians in weapons and tactical skills, has multiple certifications with several different types of weapons. Officials with the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security were explicit in stating that the Yeager was not a Department of Safety and Homeland Security certified instructor, nor is his school department certified.
This is clearly a case  where a 1st amendment utterance was used to reign in a 2nd amendment right.  Some folks have argued since the guy didn't actually commit a crime, the governments' actions were wrong and inappropriate.  Some have even gone so far as to assert that the inflammatory utterance of James Yeager was protected speech. However, public safety is one of the primary responsibilities of government and protecting folks from lunatics on the loose is something that law enforcement takes seriously, especially following several well publicized mass shootings in Aurora, CO and the CT Sandy Hooks school shooting, both horrifically tragic.

James Yeager is no ordinary citizen.  He is self-employed and trains folks in the use of firearms.  His position as the owner of a firearms training company uniquely exposes him to more government scrutiny that other citizens might be lucky enough to escape.  In the age of rampant paranoia and government restrictions on constitutional rights, Yeager should have known better and he did a very stupid thing that now has the government questioning his mental fitness to bear arms.  If the government perceives that the actions of an individual in any way constitute a threat to society, the government will act preemptively to minimize that threat.

The bottom line here is that while speech may be a protected right, speech isn't exempt from consequences. Indeed there are very serious consequences for any individual who utters that they will “start killing people” just because they are ticked off over an resolved political issue. It's not as if Yeager's rant was triggered by government goons busting down his door in the middle of the night and seizing his weapons. But Yeager's rant will most assuredly result in government goons thinking about doing precisely that.

To deliberately inflame the government at your own expense and the expense of your constitutional rights is the act of a fool.  The government and its intensely draconian surveillance apparatus are constantly spying and snooping on citizens, their e-mails, websites, social media, youtubes and every other method of electronic communication.

A little common sense goes a long way in keeping the government goons away.

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