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Reader LikeFrankConstanza writes:

I’m a huge supporter of the First Amendment, but…we need more sensible controls on First Amendment freedoms and Americans’ access to speech.

Seriously?

Oh yes, seriously. America is more divided today than at any other time since our founding. That’s a direct product of easy access to mass media by people who seek to do evil through misinformation and fanning the flames of hatred though biased speech.

People can jump on the internet today and express any opinion as if it’s fact. Often these people are willful dumbasses, ignoring basic facts that they either don’t know or chose to ignore. You know, like writing a piece and mentioning the unprecedented depths of America’s current divisions, but failing to mention the Civil War. Like I just did.

Wait…how can someone really be in favor of the elimination of a constitutional right? I’m not talking about elimination.  Just some sensible, common sense middle-of-the-road laws we can enact that both respect the First Amendment while keeping our children and communities safe. When you think about it, that’s just common sense.

I think we can all agree that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, TV and other mediums couldn’t possibly have been foreseen by the Founding Fathers. The eighteenth century had nothing like this at all. Letters took days, weeks, and even months to travel from sender to recipient. Speech was only possible at the town green or in meetinghouses within actual earshot of the intended listener.

At best, a moveable type printing press could produce only a few thousand copies of works like Thomas Paine’s famous pamphlet Common Sense. And even then they were distributed and consumed over days and weeks. Very few people were literate, a natural and sensible restriction on the dissemination of speech at the time.

The Framers clearly never intended freedom of speech to apply to high-speed, military grade forms of communication capable of broadcasting high capacity amounts of text and videos that would be easily accessible to the entire population. The consequences of such easy access to weapons of mass misinformation today are sadly all too obvious.

President Obama has had to give yet another eulogy after an extremist (whose name I will never mention), was given easy access to hate speech produced by groups like Black Lives Matter, Malcolm X, the Huey P. Newton Gun Club and other militant black groups. Those words inflamed him to the point he decided to kill five police officers. I think we need to look at some sensible controls on this kind of speech to prevent further radicalization and the spread of dangerous and violent ideas.

It shouldn’t be easier to share your opinion with tens of millions of people than it is to buy a sandwich. Buying a sandwich requires you to put on pants, have money, be able to locate a place that sells sandwiches, and complete a social interaction with another human. But you can hit record on your smartphone, post the video on YouTube and share it with millions without every leaving your mother’s basement. I might be in my underwear right now writing this. Who knows? Well, Facebook probably knows because they have access to activate your desktop camera and microphones remotely.

I know extremists say the First Amendment protects the absolute right to express offensive, wrong, nutty, irresponsible and annoying speech.  But what about my right to be free from ideas I don’t like? What about my rights to be safe from people who use hate speech to make things more dangerous for me and the community as a whole?

Much of the information out there today simply isn’t accurate. At all. People share opinions riddled with misinformation, intentionally omitting, facts and this only makes things more dangerous for our nation as a whole.  In fact, sometimes people actually make stuff up!

If we’re going to allow the average person to have access to so much military-grade technology, it should come with some common sense regulation. We need  to make sure that speech is only shared by those who are producing accurate information in a safe and sane manner with the goal of furthering the national conversation. Here’s what I propose:

  •  Universal background checks on people wanting to use electronic media. We need to make sure that only sane, law abiding people have access to disseminate speech in the electronic age. It shouldn’t be easier to share an opinion than it is to buy a sandwich. Let alone a book.

  • There should be a basic, common sense test on the safe use of speech. A simple test, created at the state level, could assess a person’s knowledge of the use of speech and their responsibilities when using it. Upon paying a small fee, say $25, and passing a test, a person would be given a Speech Safety Certificate good for five years from the date it’s issued.

  • High capacity speech should be more strictly regulated. Anything over 1000 words or videos over five minutes can be much more dangerous, giving the speaker, writer or creator more opportunity to inflame passions in an audience. Only government-approved agencies should have access to this kind of high capacity speech. Twitter, with its 140 character limitation, is a perfect example of intelligent, well-developed and rational discourse.

  • Assault speech should be banned entirely.  Assault-style speech, such as speech using only black letters, all caps and improper grammar, punctuation or excessive exclamation marks, should be banned. It has only one purpose — to hurt people. Nobody needs assault speech. A simple list of offensive speech features could be used to eliminate the most dangerous types of speech on our streets.

  • Speech should be regulated more stringently in certain localities based on local standards. Not everywhere in America is the same. What passes as reasonable speech in New York City probably won’t fly in Peoria. Cities, states and other localities need to be able to enact more strict laws to accurately reflect the values of their communities.

  • A sensible cooling off period of 10 days should be enacted on all speech. We don’t want people to broadcast speech when they’re angry. Give them time to compose thoughts, do some research and eliminate the danger of angry speech going out there where anyone could be affected by it.

  • The right to free speech should be limited to the speaker’s home.  If someone wishes to express ideas, willy-nilly, on the streets, they should have to obtain a permit from a local law enforcement agency, pass a background check, pay a fee, undergo training and carry liability insurance for any damage that speech may do to innocent bystanders.

These common sense measures would be a great step toward creating safer communities for all of us. I really appreciate the groundwork for this kind of reform that’s been laid by groups like the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. The work they’ve done to put common sense limits on a constitutional right has been an inspiration and surely is in keeping with what the Founders intended.

 

(LikeFrankConstanza blogs at likefrankcostanza.wordpress.com)

 

87 Responses to It’s Time for Common Sense Speech Safety Laws

  1. I think we need to have a discussion on this topic!

    Why are our political leaders in DC not talking about common sense speech regulation to make us safer?

    • Thomas Paine published “Common Sense” in 1776 and within 3 months had sold 120,000 copies, when you compare this to the power of electronic publishing it would be like comparing a revolutionary era militia man armed with a musket to an armed and armored squad of SEALs.

      As an additional proposition, I suggest we put forward limits to access to large capacity printers. Did you know that even without electronic publishing the commonly available humble home laser printer can print the equivalent of thousands of copies of “Common Sense” in a single day. We need to control this kind of paper publishing as well as electronic publishing. This kind of underground stealth publishing without any way to trace back who is saying these words is a dangerous problem.

      • Maybe go a step further once we get this done and highly regulate the sale of paper, ink and toner. You’re on to something. Nobody needs a laser printer. My young son has me constantly watch a documentary called Short Circuit with Steve Gutenberg. The dangers of anything with a laser are to be taken seriously.

      • Thomas Paine published “Common Sense” in 1776 and within 3 months had sold 120,000 copies

        CNC and MSNBC only dream they could attract as many viewers.

      • How many rehashed comparisons of the 1A and 2A will I read in my lifetime? Hundreds? Thousands? The tech mentioned changes with the times, (I remember one from the ’80s referencing BBSs and the ready availability of dot matrix printers!) but the ideas remain the same. The words are almost programmed by this point, the joke is cultural.

        Nice effort, not accusing anyone of plagarism, just reprinting the same piece I’ve seen for 40 years in everything from gun rags, highschool writing class, and alt gun groups – with slightly different words. Oh well, there really is nothing new under the sun.

        • In my sixty odd years, I’ve never read one so well written nor so appropriate to the lunacy of the banners.

          Your complaint, OTOH, that I have seen many times before.

    • They are. You state your opinion, and unless it contains liberal undertones you’re crazy, a homophobe or a racist. They’re limiting free speech by labeling anyone who seems to be anything other than politically correct.

  2. I know extremists say the First Amendment protects the absolute right to express offensive, wrong, nutty, irresponsible and annoying speech. But what about my right to be free from ideas I don’t like? What about my rights to be safe from people who use hate speech to make things more dangerous for me and the community as a whole?

    Hilarious. Liked every bit of it.

  3. 10 day waiting period, NICS check with no appeal upon delay/denial. No rapid fire speech, no short barreled off the cuff remarks. Civilian speech only for in-home, non OC use.

    9th Circuit rejection of 1st Amendment.

    • My ideas were just a starting place. I knew that a commune of like minded people spreading the wealth of ideas equally would help. I didn’t build that. We need a solid community organizer to get us to the end goal. Thanks for the improvements.

    • You beat me to it.

      There is probably already draft legislation ready-to-go. They’re just waiting for the right enabling tragedy. There just hasn’t been a mass murderer that wasn’t a Democrat ready-to-hand. It’s not leftist propaganda that will be targeted. It’ll be those hate mongering sites like Breitbart and Drudge.

      This article is tongue-in-cheek, hoping to get leftists to ponder what if their rights were impacted. We find it humorous and entertaining. They, on the other hand are way ahead of the curve. They know exactly how to abridge rights while flying – mostly – under the radar. Even without the spun-up false outrage from a high profile ‘event’, Facebook and Twitter, along with most mass media, are censoring content now. I will not be surprised that the trend continues.

    • Senate Democrats have already proposed an amendment that effectively repeals the second amendment. Fortunately it was shot down. It was supposed to be a counter to Citizens United but basically blasts a hole in the free speech provisions of First Amendment so big you won’t be able to find the leftover pieces.

    • What comes first the chicken or the egg .
      If they take away our guns then they can just arbitrarily take away our speech . If they can limit or deprive our speech then we can not argue our right to self defense .
      I contend that they must first remove #2 before #1 , seeing that the cat is already out of the bag and Americans have amassed a private stockpile of 300 to 500 million guns . Enough guns to overrun every military base in the US and retrieve the rest of our weapons . If we deemed it necessary .

    • Just further proof that there aught to be laws. People could just steal words off the internet and use them however they like.

      • If it keeps going like it is then it’ll be easier for a young boy to get a document of free speech ( book ) than it is a gun .
        I heard that you can walk down to any street corner in the hood and get 10 to 20 paragraphs for $20.00 . What’s the world coming to .
        Enough is enough .

        • Here here. We need more regulations. After all, without “common sense” laws, how are we mindless peon know what is proper and what is not? And how will we separate the right from wrong? Thank god for government and full-time legislatures, drafting up laws that I did not ever know we needed to make us safe.

  4. Don’t forget at this rate you’ll need a license to buy pens. They are dangerous and from what I have heard the superior to swords.

  5. Common sense would be to treat speech like driving a car. After all, we don’t just let people get behind the wheel without them first getting a license.

  6. The difference is that in this age of political correctness, ie thought control and censorship, we don’t need laws restricting free speech, we do it ourselves.

  7. First, let’s get some commonsense truck control passed. It’s important that we get this done now while emotions are running high, so it will be easier for us to accuse our pro-truck opponents of condoning murder. Then, we can move on to assault language (which nobody needs for conversation or hunting).

  8. Well Done!

    I have often thought about parallels between the 1st and 2nd amendment.

    One problem we face today is that many young people (30 and under) believe that you only have the right to free speech if you agree with their view of what’s right. They have fully adopted the new left approach and thoughts.

    Safe-Space and micro-aggression law and policy are Jim Crow laws for the 1st amendment.

    Now lets think this way about the 4th amendment.

    • The most important was free speech in 1750 – 1790 , where by all the early Americans would learn the importance of obtaining and maintaining a firearm #2 to protect #1 and the Federal Government was a pesky kitten .
      If it was flipped and they were to pen a constitution today , #2 would be primary to all else to protect against the Federal Government that has grown into a roaring tiger in perpetual search for the destruction of the document it purportedly swears to defend . Our 2nd Amendment is our greatest to defend and that is proven by the ferocity by which it is attacked by the Statist in our mist .

  9. Wasn’t the internet developed by the Army? And isn’t the pen mightier than the sword? Then the internet IS a military grade weapon! Ban the internet (except for our beneficent overlords, of course)! I’m going to start an on-line petition RIGHT NOW!!!!!

  10. I know Progressive Statists who would agree with you in earnest on all of this. How scary is that? When the 2nd falls, so do all of the other civil rights, wish we could get our enemies to understand that.

    • That was my thought too. In California, they are already proposing laws to go after oil companies for their speech denying global warming. Today (or yesterday) in Germany Facebook helped police there identify people who posted anti-Islamic “hate speech”. Computers were seized.

      I realize that Germany does not have a First Amendment, but don’t think for one second that Democrats here in the United States would not love to use similar tactics against Republicans, conservatives and constitutionalist.

  11. This attempt at sarcasm has already been trumped by reality. This is now the norm on most college campuses and in the MSM. The Democratic Party has already expressed the desire to limit corporate speech. Oh, the New York Times is a corporation. As much as I applaud Frank for his skills as a humorist, this is no longer humor.

  12. Senate Democrats have already proposed an amendment that effectively repeals the first amendment. Fortunately it was shot down. It was supposed to be a counter to Citizens United but basically blasts a hole in the free speech provisions of first amendment so big you won’t be able to find the leftover pieces.

  13. So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don’t even know that fire is hot.
    – George Orwell

  14. “America is more divided today than at any other time since our founding.” Does the Civil War strike a bell?

    • You know how I know you didn’t read the article?

      “People can jump on the internet today and express any opinion as if it’s fact. Often these people are willful dumbasses, ignoring basic facts that they either don’t know or chose to ignore. You know, like writing piece and mentioning the unprecedented depths of America’s current divisions, but failing to mention the Civil War. Like I just did.”

      See, sensible restrictions on speech are needed. 🙂

  15. I agree with most sentiments described above. I feel however no need for trousers to order a sandwich. I am a free man. I will wear shorts.

  16. This would work as satire if it weren’t for the fact that leftists are totally down with abridging free speech.

  17. avatar Awellregulatedmilitiabeingnecessarytoafreestatetherightofthepeopeltokeepandbeararmswhileinamilitiashallnotbeinfringedbythestate says:

    I love coming here and watching you cowards masturbate each other. Priceless.

      • Like the entire Bill of Rights, the 2nd is clear. The government shall not stop people in the government from bearing arms as long as they’re part of the government. That’s why we have the National Guard. The Bill of Rights serves to limit the government’s ability to restrict the government’s ability. It’s very logical. Duh.

    • I thought it was sarcasm at its most epic, even if said sarcasm is somewhat old and trite as a selling point. You, on the other hand, are just sad and distasteful when you spew sexually charged vitriol like that. Sure, it makes you feel better personally, but everyone else is just all “eww, yuck.”

      And what’s more, I think even the VERY few people on the fence can see you for what you are, and so I personally encourage you and like-minded trolls to continue your rants. It greatly helps the cause of liberty, and makes you feel better about yourself at the same time. Win-win.

      Tom

    • Broken record with people attacking the 2nd Amendment….they universally resort to sexual innuendos. Either the product of very successful social engineering or projection of their own personal insecurities, or both.

  18. This was great, Frank! I’m definitely saving and sharing this. Well played, sir.

  19. I think there needs to be a $200 tax and an indefinite waiting period to buy Microsoft Office. A ban on computers and printers made after 1986 would also be appropriate. No shoulder thing that goes up on a computer bag…who needs to carry a computer?

  20. The left has long thought that the 1st Amendment only applies to them. They want “hate speech” banned and to become a punishable offense – hate speech being anything that opposes, challenges or in any way refutes their cloistered deranged world view.

  21. Don’t forget about the speech roster, a state approved list of topics which can be discussed. If your desired topic is not on the list you can make a petition to the state board to add your topic to the approved list. Periodically, the state board will remove topics deemed no longer worth discussing.

  22. After all, the internet started off as ARPANet, intended to keep multiply redundant lines of communication open between military commanders and forces in the event of a nuclear war.

    It’s really too easy for civilians to access this sort of weapons system. After all, you can even buy hardware to access it on the internet!

  23. First they came for the Moveable Type, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Typesetter.

    Then they came for the printers, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a publisher.

    Then they came for the facebook and myspace, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not on social media .

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to post for me.

  24. “Buying a sandwich requires you to put on pants…”

    Damn, I knew I was doing something wrong. thanks 😉

  25. Immediate printer registration, High capacity printers are to be banned starting Jan 2017, you will need to apply for a Writers Permit in order to buy toner or ink, no grandfathering in of these dangerous assault keyboards that allow more than 1000 words per minute, that is simply way too much, and who really needs that many words, for the children.

    There has been a dangerous Writers Loophole that the dangerous APA has used to conflate the exercise of free speech as an uninfringeable right, which, come on, we all know is just Right Control key conspiracy. We need common sense speech controls to ensure the safety of our children our neighborhoods and ourselves, nope, can’t keep doing it, this is silly yes, but I am getting angry in my angry spots. I hear enough of this guff daily at home, then when I turn on the tv I hear way more. This article cracks me up, but it makes my heart ache for some real return to the America that once was, that could be, if our fellow citizens weren’t so easily manipulated.

  26. Great Idea!
    But, let me just add this one little line at the bottom, exempting all federal level politicians from these requirements. OBVIOUSLY, your leaders are automatically sane, responsible persons, to whom none of this should apply.
    Signed: your federal representative

  27. LikeFrankCostanza is a close friend of mine and sort of a mentor for me in understanding the dangers we face in regard to our constitutional rights. A slow clap is well deserved on this one. Bravo!

  28. Very few people were literate, a natural and sensible restriction on the dissemination of speech at the time.

    Not true at all. The average citizen at the birth of the republic could read better than the average today. The founders wrote the constitution with the intention that the general public would be able to read and interpret it. They did not believe it required a JD from an Ivy League school and decades of experience as a federal judge.

    • The majority of the population was barely literate. There were no public schools, most jobs were apprenticeships which required no literacy and only the wealthy received any kind of formal instruction. The figure during the revolution of people who could barely read and write somewhere around 70 to 80 percent if you’re looking at just white males. It was lower for pretty much everyone else.

      Today, people are much more naive, but our literacy rates today are higher by a great deal (like near 100%). People comprehending what they read and write, well, that’s another story….

  29. Hmmm…for sarcasm it is bang-on correct. “Micro-aggressions”, ” safe-space” and everything is raciss come to mind. Ever listen to Bill O’Reilly whine about thos e evil internet folks? How dare you think your opinion matters when I your humble correspondent have a degree from Harvard!

  30. Has this guy never heard of a Jimmy John’s? What an absurd statement that you must put on pants to order a sandwich. I feel very sorry for him for never having experienced ordering a sandwich online. What a very sad life.

  31. Although I appreciate the excellent parody of some of the positions taken by gun control advocates, the fact is that there are already far more restrictions on the use of 1st Amendment “free speech” rights than there are in many (most???) states and at the Federal level on 2nd Amendment rights. The only universal restriction on guns that I’m aware of is the requirement for advance application and registration of automatic weapons (please correct me if there are any other nation-wide laws affecting 2nd Amendment rights). For basic free speech, there are at least 7 specific exceptions that result in speech not being protected by the Constitution, and as a result, illegal. Additionally, several states have recently passed laws further restricting speech within their borders, although those may be overturned if they are challenged in court.

    The 7 areas in which 1st Amendment rights are not protected by the Constitution:.

    1 – Incitement – Speech directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action that is likely to incite or produce such action within a limited time after the speech. Surprisingly to some liberals (you know, some of those gun grabbers y’all are worried about), the Supreme Court has ruled that speech at KKK, white supremacist group, and self-proclaimed citizen militia rallies is still Constitutionally protected speech, unless the particular speech results in immediate lawless action. The ACLU (another organization viewed as “liberal”) has spent a lot of time and money defending the free speech rights of the KKK and neo-Nazi groups on this point. FYI – I am not meaning to imply in any way that all vigorously pro-2nd Amendment rights supporters are members of the KKK, any white supremacist group, or any self-formed citizen militia. I am citing those groups in this statement only because public statements members of the groups seem to have overwhelming been aggressive in asserting their 2nd Amendment rights.

    2 – False Statements of Fact – This free speech exception has become much less clear in recent years because of a variety of court cases. Political speech is still protected under the Constitution, even if it is an outright lie, as long as it isn’t slander or libel. Lies about the government may still be constitutionally protected speech. A Fox News affiliate in Florida won a court case supporting its claim that it did not have to report any actual facts when reporting the “news” (seems that quite a few media sources, both liberal and conservative, are making full use of that court allowed free speech protection in their worthless reporting on the current political campaigns). Slander and libel still fit in this category as unprotected speech.

    3 – Obscenity

    4 – Child pornography

    5 – Fighting words and offensive speech – This includes “hate speech” and speech that may offend other people (one of the kinds of free speech restrictions suggested in the main article’s parody). This has also come to include what seem to be currently in vogue as “micro-aggression”. That is speech which contains words that seem to be so inconsequential that the speaker had no idea that the words would offend someone, but they did. Although originally used by some extremely sensitive people on college campuses to shut down supposed hate or racist words and actions, the whole idea of micro-aggression seems to be rapidly becoming part of conservative positions on things such as reverse discrimination and claimed attacks on Christianity, racism against whites, and other causes. As a result, it is being more widely used on both sides of issues and has, in fact, severely limited free speech in some places.

    6 – Speech owned by others

    7 – Commercial speech – Has some Constitutional protections, but not as much as supposedly exists for non-commercial free speech.

    Attempts to restrict or prohibit free speech in connection with political issues have increased in the last couple of decades. Restrictions on where demonstrators can exercise their free speech rights are very common. Usually, the “free speech zones” are set up quite a distance away from the actual political event so as to limit the impact and visibility of the people protesting government actions. Seems that the position of more and more politicians is that we the people can have “free speech”, as long as they don’t have to listen to it.

    Recently, even peaceful protest groups are being targeted by the FBI and local police as potential “terrorist” organizations, even when there have been no public disruptions, no violence, no threats of violence, and no ties between the groups and any other problem organization. This effectively places people belonging to those groups who want to do nothing more than peacefully raise concerns about government policies or actions in the category of potential terrorist or criminal. In reading articles and comments on several 2nd Amendment web sites, it appears that there are quite a few gun owners who feel that they are unfairly targeted by gun control proponents or law enforcement simply for owning (or wanting to own) a gun. That now appears to be exactly the same situation being faced by peaceful protest groups. Perhaps this is something that peaceful 1st Amendment rights groups and law abiding 2nd Amendment rights groups should be working together on. You never know, both sides might learn something about each other, much as the Breitbart reporter, Lee Stranahan, did after being unlawfully detained and spending time in jail with BLM protesters in Baton Rouge.

    Again, I enjoyed the parody of the “liberal” attacks on 2nd Amendment rights. Look forward to seeing more from this writer. Just that some acknowledgement needs to be given that 1st Amendment rights have been under attack for quite awhile already.

  32. “At best, a moveable type printing press could produce only a few thousand copies of works like Thomas Paine’s famous pamphlet Common Sense.”

    And THAT’S why we call it “common sense press control.” See?

  33. BRILLIANT!!! Oops,sorry, brilliant.

    I have been advocating this for sometime now. I’m glad someone has finally put it into words. One very important piece you have left out; an outright ban on all fiction. Fiction is just lies, all made up. Corporations use it for stealing your money. Politician tell lies for power and money. But the worst are fiction writers! Concocting untruths for fun and profit, all while sitting in their mother’s basement, not wearing any pants, because they are flaming away dangling from a fiber-optic line!

    All bookstores, Internet cafés and libraries need to be shut down. Would it be any more obvious if it were spelled lie-brary?? Publishers, Internet providers, newspapers, TV networks, etc all “Lie-pushers” to be held responsible.

    Fiction is an insidious evil that bombards our children from birth. Santa Claus, Easter Bunnies, Dr. Seuss and Harry Potter all designed to brainwash and get us to believe anything or you won’t get any candy.

    There’s another thing that should be banned, SUGAR! It’s a gateway drug used by the government, corporations and irresponsible parents to poison inocint children and infect them with lies, lies, lies!

    I will wait for my (truthful) comments to clear all checks from my benevolent big brother…

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