First Amendment (courtesy cojmc.uni.edu)

TTAG reader Dylan Schumacher writes:

What if we treated the first amendment like the second? Sure, you have the right to freedom of speech, but first, you must get a permit. But not too fast, before you are allowed to mock the government or become part of the press or worship freely, you have to take a class. This class can range anywhere from 4-12 hours depending on the state you live in. At the end of the class you’ll be asked to give a small speech to make sure you’ve learned how to use your freedom safely and responsibly . . .

After the class, now you can go to your local governing body to request your permit to speak freely, report the news, or pick a church/temple/synagogue/mosque, etc. Now, depending on what state you live in, good luck getting your permit. A few unlucky individuals among you won’t be able to get your permit to speak freely depending on your state’s issuance rules. You’ll just have to abide by the state standards on the subject and no free speech, worship, or press reporting for you. Sorry.
Now, for the rest of you, depending on where you live, it could take well over 30 days to even receive that permit. Don’t you dare think about speaking freely before you receive that permit either, as that will be a crime, up to and including jail time.
Once your permit arrives, congratulations! You can now speak freely! Yeah, you’ll have to take a class and renew it in a couple of years. But for now, freedom is here! But wait, there are some common sense, for the good of society, speech safety restrictions. Some private business establishments, have the right to refuse your permit. They can post a sign on their door, with a list of words that aren’t allowed in their establishment.
If you use those words in that establishment (again, depending on the state that you live in), the police can be called and you can be looking at criminal charges. We in the free speech community suggest you stay out of those establishments entirely.
Don’t forget, not only can any establishment who chooses make their domain a speech free zone, but there are other common sense restrictions about where your permit is valid.
Schools? Forget about it. We can’t allow you around children, who knows what you could say? Who knows what could happen?
Federal buildings are out, along with court rooms, and a host of other restrictions, for safety. In fact, some words and ideas are just off limits entirely unless you get another special permit and fill out more paper work (including finger prints!) with various government agencies.
Now, lastly, you have to remember that just because your free speech permit is valid in your state, it doesn’t mean it’s valid in others. Reciprocity is a tricky thing. In fact, if you have to wander into another state you could possibly get charged with a felony! A felony for crossing the wrong state line.
That felony automatically invalidates your permit, leaving you without your privileges the rest of your life, not to mention you lose your right as a citizen to vote. So be sure to know those state laws! Don’t go where your permit is not valid, and watch your mouth if you do!
Now, you might think all this “regulation” is a little much. But it’s probably not near enough. Do you have any idea how dangerous it is to let people say whatever it is that they want? Can you imagine what un-American ideas would spread?
There is nothing more dangerous in the world than an idea.

Recommended For You

92 Responses to What If We Treated the First Amendment Like the Second?

  1. Once you get your permit you could only disseminate info on handbills printed from a Gutenburg press (the founding fathers never intended people to have word processors or blogs)

    • Yep. Only members of government agencies and specially approved professions can practice religion as they see fit, assemble in public, publish the news, and disseminate information and ideas to the public.

      At least that’s the way it should be if our courts interpreted the First Amendment as the collective right it really is.

      • Well, the 1A being the collective right that it is, the government is free to determine what religion the nation will adopt. This collective right will also be the right of the government as to what slogans and ideology the people will state from their mouths, and think with their minds.

    • Just in case you weren’t being sarcastic…so the founders were collectivists? And the evidence is where?

      If it was sarcastic, disregard and carry on…

        • Well, I believe some of the early colonies were actually collective, at least until half the folks realized they could receive the same benefits without doing any work. At that point the working half rose up and “collectively” made the lazy half realize they were wrong. Let a few folks starve and the smarter ones get the message.

  2. Please, Mr. Farago, refrain from giving .gov any bright ideas. Our dear leader doesn’t need a helping hand in respect to infringement on personal rights.

      • The best evidence to date suggests that right-to-speech laws increase hate, so efforts to eliminate or tighten those laws and to oppose their adoption in the states that do have them would be prudent at this time.

        A recent study noted that since May 2007, 29 permit holders have gone on vulgar rants that insulted or disparaged at least three individuals. In general, legislative tightening of those allowed to speak freely to the fullest extent that the Constitution allows is clearly worth exploring.

  3. “Federal buildings are out, along with court rooms, and a host of other restrictions, for safety. In fact, some words and ideas are just off limits entirely”

    Too late. People have been thrown in jail and threatened with decades in prison for passing out pamphlets outside coutrooms on jury nullification.

  4. Let’s face it, allowing people to have unlimited access to self-expression is a sure invitation to social chaos. We simply can’t have people going around saying mean and hurtful things anytime they want to without any regard for the feelings of others. While I don’t want to take away people’s speech rights I do believe that we have to reach as sensible middle ground which places logical and entirely fair limitations on dangerous and hurtful speech. There really is no need for people to have the unlimited right to hurt the feelings of others anytime they want to! Nobody needs to say 1000’s and 1000’s of hurtful things to others and yet, within a single adult’s lifetime this is entirely possible. Just think of the harm that does! A reasonable society ought to be able to put carefully considered limits on both the kinds and numbers of hurtful things that a person can say.

    I’m just proposing this as a temporary experiment, but let’s start by limiting everyone in the country, except of course politicians, actors, and law enforcement officers, to 10 angry or hurtful expressions per month. Really now, 10 hurtful or angry expressions per month is enough for any sane person. Just think how much nicer our society will be if we don’t have to hear so many hurtful things. The founders of or nation were reasonable and polite men. They never intended for us to have to hear the kinds of words and statements that pollute modern life. Let’s do it for the kids!

  5. As the younger generations begin to show their colors, the appeal to the equivalency of the 1st and 2nd amendments is beginning to wear precariously thin.

    I’m too lazy to find the link, but a recent survey of college-age Millennials found that like 40% were in favor of the government regulating speech that was “offensive” to “minorities” (of course, in the burgeoning culture of learned victimhood, everyone except white men can claim to be a minority). That is shocking.

    So, these dimwitted, humorless little bundles of butthurt have no regard for the 1st amendment whatever, so why would you think they care at all about any other part of the Bill of Rights? The entire Constitution to them is an anachronism that interferes with the government’s ability to create safe spaces for them.

    Oh, and it’s a massive generation, demographically. Better crank up the culture war, or we’re scroomed.

    • “…government regulating speech that was “offensive” to “minorities”.”

      But speech that is offensive to the majority is okay? How does that work? I suspect there is some remedy in the magic 14th Amendment “equal protection under the law.”

      • To paraphrase the placard in the ant colony in the Once and Future King, “Everything that is not forbidden is compulsory.”

        Follow the logic:

        1. Offensive speech can by definition only be directed at minorities, since they are the only ones who can legitimately claim the right to be offended, as offensive speech triggers traumatic reminders of their respective victimhood in the face of oppression from the majority.

        2. Offensive speech is to be forbidden, because those doing the forbidding gain power from catering to the abused minorities du jour. Divide and conquer, baby.

        3. Since offensive speech toward the majority is not forbidden per the logic above, ergo it must be compulsory. Also, don’t forget to take their guns.

  6. Uh, not a new idea. A South Carolina senator just sponsored just such legislation and it has already been discussed on TTAG. Real legislation, not hypothetical.

    How about applying this to the 15th and 19th Amendments, the right to vote regardless of race or sex. Reasonable restrictions for politics training, testing on issues before voting, voting permits required except for govt employees and elected officials, limits to what elections you can vote. People with Islam names prohibited from voting…

    • “Real” legislation, but explicitly introduced to show the disparity in regard for the 1st and 2nd Amendments by the politicos and pundits in general. Not seriously intended to actually pass.

        • Sure it can pass. But it will not. Just like bunch of other bills proposed daily not to pass, only to show to voters that their legislator is trying and “doing something” and giving them chance to show on voting record where they stand.

  7. If we could save just one life by putting those who think and speak their minds in prison, shouldn’t we; you monsters?

  8. Ideas less than 16 inches will require a $200 tax stamp and approval from the BATFE. Also, full auto speech spoken after May of 1986 is forbidden for civilians. Now, see how stupid that sounds!

  9. It seems to me that we are heading that way. With all the political correct statement imposed on us like “Undocumented Immigrants” instead of the true legal term “Illegal Aliens”.

  10. If the Left treated the 2nd Amendment like the other amendments, there would probably be a government program to provide everyone with a free gun who couldn’t afford one.

    • Well, that kind of thing is mostly reserved for “rights” that actually aren’t written in the Amendments, but are sniffed out hiding under “penumbras” by inventive jurists. The Constitutional rights that are actually written down tend to get pretty short shrift these days.

      • sniffed out hiding under “penumbras” by inventive jurists.

        I’m pretty sure they would be “emanations,” not penumbras. It’s a very important legal distinction.

        • “It’s a very important legal distinction.”

          Have mercy! Ralph, you’re killing me, here!

  11. Don’t forget the thought police. They are the only ones responsible enough to be able to handle yelling, and are the trained professionals in speech. Free speech should be left up to them, and them alone. Soon we will push for a bill that requires all speech talkers to turn in their tounges. Knowing that many will refuse, we will have to do door to door tounge confiscation nation wide to keep our children safe. You speech talkers have no rights, and you’re on the wrong side of history!

  12. Let’s also not forget, in some states you may not be able to buy some books – or even be allowed to own them even if you bought them out of state.

    And you won’t, with some small exceptions, be allowed to purchase books out of state at all, at least not directly; they will have to be shipped to a licensed book dealer in your state so they can be properly transferred … assuming you get a pass from the Bibliophile Instant Check System (BICS).

  13. Words have caused the mobilization of countries resulting in the death of more people than guns have ever or will ever cause…just ask Paul Joseph Goebbels…

  14. If you wish to use a word processor on any computer running at over 8hz, you must first buy the computer, file a form 1234 with the National Undetermined Methodologies’ Numerical Underwriters’ Triumvirate System (NUMNUTS), pay a $200.00 fee for the stamp for your Speech Allowance Card (license), and wait for the application to be approved before taking possession of your computer. (Apprx. wait time, fourteen months)

  15. I believe in the First Amendment, but we need reasonable and sensible speech and media control. If it saves just one child….

  16. As long as we’re playing “what if,” what if we treated guns like periods? Then you could have one a month, but they would have to be concealed.

  17. Recently, a gag “pollster” went to several Universities, including Yale, and asked people in the common areas if they would support repealing the First Amendment. Overwhelmingly, they responded they thought it was a good idea and would support it.

    Your parody is clever and extremely thorough and I congratulate you…but given the abject stupidity of supposedly educated people who may vote in 2016 demonstrated by the results the gag pollster obtained, forgive me for finding your article only very darkly humorous.

  18. “This class can range anywhere from 4-12 hours depending on the state you live in.”
    Make it 16 hours here in Illinois – we are special!
    And no loud and open speech for you. You can only mutter under your breath so you don’t scare anyone.

  19. if you think about the number of individuals (military and civilians) that have died as a direct result of Obama’s failed foreign policy, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq, ISIS, Iran, etc…. there is a case to be made for serious 1st amendment restrictions on liars and prevaricators. He alone has caused the deaths of more persons than gun related deaths in the US over the past 7 years.

    /sarc or truth?

  20. Speaking in 1801 of his political foes, Thomas Jefferson identified them them the same as the anti-second amendment crowd we face, “Their leaders are a hospital of incurables, and as such entitled to be protected and taken care of as other insane persons are.”

    Sadly, we are reduced to only being able to quote from the greatest minds of our republic’s past; there is none now in the land with such insightful, focused, succinct power of observation and commentary.

  21. I am absolutely out of breath from laughing so hard at all the comments here. From the pseudo-college professor type – (More Dad Soldiers : just tryin’ to stir debate) to the folks that get sucked in debating with this paragon of idiocracy. Thank you all for a great Friday and I look forward to more of this banter. BTW – DS – with the original article, I like your style and I think we all need to be cognizant of the very real fact that our rights are being trampled upon by those in power (today).

  22. The fat is when the more gun control advocates say the first amendment is not limited they point to two examples:
    1) the “fire in a crowded theater” quote from the 1919 SCOTUS
    2) liable, defamation, copyright, threatening speech

    These are perverse and really idiotic examples/analogies to express and show profound dishonesty or profound ignorance.

    These are situations where a) AFTER harm has been proven in a court of law with full due process, the individual who caused the harm, and b) ONLY that individual, is sanctioned.

    As far as limits on the bill of rights, Mr. Obama says he likes Australia. Bloomberg says he likes the UK. Madame former ACLU chief counsel and now Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginburg says she prefers South Africa.

    Really? so the former head of the ACLU and now left wing SCOTUS member says throw out double jeopardy protection right? anyone notice that Oscar Pistorios, e of garbage that he is, was ruled guilty on prosecution appeal after being found not guilty in a court of law? S. Africa, Canada, and most of Europe allow double jeopardy to creep in even in countries where it is supposedly prohibited. . In the US new DNA evidence or tech is being used to exonerated thousands. It cannot be used to overturn not guilty verdicts — ever. in the rest of the world, including countries like Australia, Canada and in Europe it is being used to overturn not guilty verdicts.

    There are dozens of lower protection on fourth, fifth and sixth amendment rights in most other developed democracies as well. Those other countries argue increased certainty of conviction leads to lower crime commission.

    heck stop and frisk, unconsitutional in the US is fully allowed in Australia and most of Europe.

  23. Kinda making the point for the Anti’s here.
    Private businesses and Federal buildings do in fact have speech restrictions.
    Try walking into a court room and telling a judge he’s a bleeping moron for his interpretation of the law.
    Try walking into a business and telling customers the products are overpriced and xyz down the street has better and cheaper items.
    Try walking into any business or federal building and spouting off like you have tourette’s syndrome.
    Point being, EVERY right has limits including the 2A.

    For the record….
    CCW should require a permit.
    A background check and a proficiency test should be required for a permit.
    Permits should be MUST issue once the above 2 criteria are met.
    Permits should be excepted in all 50 states.
    Ridiculous restrictions on cosmetic features should net be allowed.
    The NFA should be repealed.

      • I think you should read the Constitution before making a statement like that…
        “shall make no law” 1st
        “shall not be violated” 4th
        “shall not be required” 8th
        “shall not be denied” 15th

        No right is unlimited. They all come with responsibilities, restrictions and obligations regardless of how much you want to nitpick on specific words.

        This is the problem with BOTH sides of the 2A issue, neither side is reasonable or rational or is using common sense even though both sides love to throw those words around. The American public can see this plain as day which is why a lot of them see us as nuts or extremists.

        • You, sir, should make note that the government is deciding that plain words have whatever meaning the government chooses for the day. “make no law” is unequivocal. The fact that it seems “reasonable” to pose limits that upend “make no law” is something founded in the heads of people for whom it is necessary to loose the restraints of government when it makes “common sense” (but only when in their advantage).

        • John you made the basic mistake of logic and law. Your analogy is for an offence, disruption of a court hearing — and one where the offender only is punished, Not on a “pre crime” preventive limit on everyone!

      • 2A Limits enforced by a government against which the second amendment was designed is simply preposterous. Armed defense against a rogue government was considered the “fail safe” against tyranny. Note, it is the government, not the citizenry who determined that limits on defense against the government are quite reasonable.

    • It is astonishing how many people believe/accept that the government has a superior right to control firearms in the hands of citizens. The second amendment was designed to ensure the people had the means to correct an over-reaching government. Does it not seem Kafkaesque that the government meant to be controlled by armed citizens demands that the government be allowed to determine who those armed citizens are, and what they are allowed to buy?

      And to those for whom national history is a mystery or dusty fable best ignored, cannon were among the armaments possessed by the citizens. Why cannon ? So the government would face an equally matched citizenry.

      • I for one do not believe that the government has any right to control what guns you own or can carry.
        You are correct, it is the citizens who have that right.
        However the “citizens” have clearly stated that they support some form of gun control. (Without mentioning any specifics) This alone demonstrates the 2A right is not absolute regardless how many people want to point to “shall NOT be infringed”
        If you are going to base your argument on the absolution of any of the rights codified in the Constitution you immediately invalidate the entire argument as it is based on a fallacy. The minute you agree that violent, crazy, psychopaths should not be allowed to have guns you have violated the absolution of your own argument.

        • The mere existence of people willing to limit a right does not disable the “absolute” modifier. Until 2A is amended, it stands as written, meaning it is not to be restricted…regardless. Just as the first amendment is absolute, the second is more so because it is the last resort rampart against capricious government.

          People like to think the first amendment is constrained by things like falsely claiming a fire exists in a crowded theater (but what of a theater not crowded?), or “fighting words”, or slander, etc are infringements; they are not. What people take to be acceptable infringements are merely laws governing the outcome of free speech. You can say anything you like, but must bear the consequence if your freedom harms another (always wondered if you commit a crime falsely claiming fire in an empty theater…and nothing happens as a result). Accordingly, restrictions on the second amendment because of what MAY happen is a violation of the second amendment. If a person (crazy or not) injures another with a firearm, that is the issue – not the mere possession/purchase. Restrictions on who may have a firearm prior to objective criminal activity is an unconstitutional violation of a citizen’s rights.

          It is convenient to talk in short hand, saying preemptive restrictions on second amendment rights may be satisfactory to some, but words matter. It is settled law that government cannot prevent the publication of information which the government deems potentially damaging. It is only after the release of information, and subsequent harm to individuals or legitimate government activity, that the release may be punished at trial. To accept preemption of the second amendment is not only inconsistent and illogical, but subversive of the rights of all citizens.

        • The minute you agree that violent, crazy, psychopaths should not be allowed to have guns you have violated the absolution of your own argument.

          John again your logic is false. Persons adjudicated as violent or crazy (presenting a clear danger to themselves or others in a court of law) Have lost all kinds of rights including first, second, fourth, fifth amendment rights.

          The are adjudicated with full right to council and full due process before they lose those rights until found no longer dangerous. Their basic freedoms are removed. Why do you focus on the second amendment with those people when in fact they are also not allowed to have shoelaces!?!

          We don’t “agree” they should not have guns, we “agree” they should not be on the streets at all. That is the legal situation with those persons.

          You are on your third strawman

    • Kinda making the point for the Anti’s here.
      Private businesses and Federal buildings do in fact have speech restrictions.
      Try walking into a court room and telling a judge he’s a bleeping moron for his interpretation of the law.

      No you are failing basic concepts of law there. Committing contempt is a crime for which that individual and that individual only is sanctioned/punished.

      Your analogy would be correct if you were to say judges can muzzle anyone BEFORE they enter a courtroom. the commission of the crime of contempt is the same as the commission of the crime of threatening someone with a gun. You and only you are sanctioned — not everyone is pre offence sanctioned — as suggested by the antis.

  24. Some might argue that the First Amendment never killed anyone but the Second Amendment has. I disagree for a few reasons. Both amendments are just words on paper. The document, ink and paper, has never killed anyone. But the ‘freedom’ that the press has to lie and manipulate society is and has been devastating, and has most likely led to political and societal situations that have damaged America far more than the yearly tally of gun involved deaths..

    • The peer reviewed work shows about 125 children die in the US from first amendment protected circumcision each year. This would be well over ten times the average number of kids killed with so called assault rifles.

  25. When will people finally stop mouthing that threadbare falsehood about “falsely shouting ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater”? It’s as if everyone has forgotten about Brandenburg v. Ohio. Yes, even reckless or dangerous speech is still free speech, and the government has no authority to silence it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *