South Carolina Legislator: Regulate Journalists Like Gun Owners

S.C. State Rep. Mike Pitts. John Bazemore/AP, via

We’ve often heard it asked: what would happen if a law were crafted that would treat other rights with the same disrespect and contempt with which the right to keep and bear arms is treated? Well, wonder no more. South Carolina State Representative Mike Pitts (R) has introduced the “South Carolina Responsible Journalism Registry Law” for what might be called, tongue planted firmly in cheek, a common sense regulation on irresponsible journalism. NPR has the story . . .

Criminal background checks and assurances that a person “is competent to be a journalist” are among the requirements put forth by State Rep. Mike Pitts in a new bill in South Carolina’s Legislature. The bill would also create a responsible journalism registry….

[S]ome of the bill is patterned on gun registration laws — something Pitts, a Republican from Laurens, S.C., has acknowledged.

The bill lays out fines — and prison time — for a “person who works as a journalist without registering,” culminating in a maximum punishment of either a $500 fine or a 30-day prison term. Those who head media outlets that hire unregistered journalists would be subject to the same penalties.

“Basically, it is the (concealed weapons permit) law with journalists and pens instead of guns,” Pitts tells the Greenwood, S.C., Index-Journal.

“My real issue is simply to start to debate about all of your constitutional rights. And that they are all equally important, and they are all separate,” Pitts tells the newspaper. “This was an easy parallel.”

According to the Index-Journal, Pitts “does not necessarily want the bill to pass,” but he wants to generate a debate over First and Second Amendment rights.

The bill itself contains some…amazing requirements that should sound all too familiar for anyone who’s ever purchased a firearm in the United States:

(A) The Secretary of State’s Office shall create a registry for the registration of persons who qualify as a journalist pursuant to this chapter.
(B) A person seeking to register shall provide all information required by the office including, but not limited to, a criminal record background check, an affidavit from the media outlet attesting to the applicant’s journalistic competence, and an application fee in an amount determined by the office.

(C) A registration is valid for two years and must be renewed within thirty days of expiration.

(D)(1) The Secretary of State’s Office may deny, revoke, or refuse to issue or renew a registration if the office finds that the person:

(a) has filed an application for registration that contains a statement that is false or misleading with respect to a material fact;

(b) has failed to pay the proper application fee or any other fee or penalty imposed pursuant to this chapter; or

(c) has failed to comply with any provision of this chapter.

(2) The Secretary of State’s Office shall deny, revoke, or refuse to issue or renew a registration if a media outlet has determined pursuant to Section 40-85-40 that the person is not competent to be a journalist….

(B) Before working as a journalist for a media outlet in this State, a person shall provide a criminal record background check to the media outlet to determine journalistic competence and register with the South Carolina Responsible Journalism Registry. After registering, the person shall provide a copy of the registration to the media outlet. A person may not work as a journalist until the person provides a copy of a registration to the media outlet.

Section 40-85-40. (A) A person is not competent to be a journalist if:

(1) within the three years before submitting an application for registration, the person has been determined by a court of law to have committed:

(a) libel, slander, or invasion of privacy; or

(b) a felony if the underlying offense was committed to collect, write, or distribute news or other current information for a media outlet; or

(2) as a journalist, the person has demonstrated a reckless disregard of the basic codes and canons of professional journalism associations, including a disregard of truth, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness, and public accountability, as applicable to the acquisition of newsworthy information and its subsequent dissemination to the public.

I don’t know about you, but I found myself uncontrollably smiling while reading the bill.

Reaction was swift. The ACLU’s branch in South Carolina — demonstrating a hilarious level of self-unawareness, given their parent organization’s disrespect for the right to keep and bear arms — denounced it as “another (unconstitutional) waste of tax dollars.”

NPR also quoted Bill Rogers of the South Carolina Press Association as stating that he would fight against the bill “tooth and nail”, no doubt because it would impact his bottom line rather severely. In 2008, Rogers came out to fight another bill tooth and nail, as a matter of what he called “principle”. That bill protected the privacy of South Carolinians who had obtained licenses to carry concealed firearms. The principle being, I suppose, to protect his right to violate the privacy of people who were exercising rights protected by the Constitution, but subject to licensure anyway, in a manner not really all that different than what was in Pitts’ bill.

No doubt some will object to the fact that Pitts is abusing the legislative process just to make a political point. And there’s always the danger that some damned fool legislators will try to pass a law just to find out what’s in it. But if this helps wake a few more people up to the fact that the principles enshrined in gun control lead us toward a more repressive state, I’m all for it.


  1. avatar OakRiver says:

    CSGV have already been on the warpath on this.

    Of course now they are concerned about Constitutional rights 😀

    1. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

      Nearly everything I see from CSVG reads like an over the top SNL skit.

      I cannot even take it seriously.

      1. avatar dh34 says:

        Concur. It’s like everything they put out is a hyper-exaggerated cariacture of an argument.

    2. avatar JR Pollock says:

      “Enunciated” Rights??

    3. avatar Bobiojimbo says:

      Oh, sweet irony 😀

    4. avatar Wiregrass says:

      It’s hard to say who is trolling who anymore.

  2. avatar John L. says:

    So I say, let’s pass it. And then we’ll see whether the quality of journalism improves. After all, if it saves just one face-palm…

    1. avatar Smoke Jensen says:


    2. avatar Sixpack70 says:

      Some days my face really hurts. This would protect people like me who facepalm 8-10x per day after reading the news.

    3. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

      It’s madness! There’ll be ink in the streets!

      1. avatar Wood says:

        Madness!!! Quick, let’s wave the inky shirt!!

        1. avatar WedelJ says:

          Won’t it be a lack of ink? Quick! Wave the not-ink-stained shirt!

    4. avatar Jim says:

      How about word limits?

      1. avatar CameronB says:

        no body needs 140 characters, ban rapid fire tweet devices!

    5. avatar jginsc says:

      In the state of New York any reporting should be limited to 7 words maximum. TV news casts should be limited to 7 minutes. New York Times and other news publications should be limited to 7 pages and 7 words per article.

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        And cost no more than seven cents per day.

      2. avatar SteveInCO says:

        And since the timeslot comes in ten minute increments the other three minutes can be left empty of news “content,” i.e., filled by commercials

      3. avatar rswartze says:

        Tax their words like in Seattle.

    6. avatar BDub says:

      I’m all in favor of the Troll of Trolls, but um, NO!, lets NOT pass it and see what happens.

  3. avatar Former Water Walker says:

    For the children. So when is a journalist a “journalist”? When he gets paid?

    1. avatar Rikoshay says:

      Sean Penn not so much.

    2. avatar FFL KB says:

      80%. So that must mean they must be of “B” average or above? Have 80% brain capacity?

  4. avatar fuque says:

    We need common sense speech control…People dont NEED to have an opinion about EVERYTHING… Make then prove that what they have an opinion on, actually affects them.. If they want to have their say, they should first prove that they can responsibly do so without offending me..

    1. avatar Dean Carpenter says:

      Agreed. To model California requirements journalists should be restricted to reporting on topics allowed from a state issued list. The list well be updated annually.

      1. avatar Mike says:

        And the number if topics will shrink every year.

        1. avatar Brooklyn in da house says:

          And only 1 story per month.

        2. avatar Marcus (Aurelius) Payne says:

          Restrict purchases of MS Word, a tax stamp required for personal page layout software…

          Definitely “common sense” reforms.

      2. avatar Arkansas kurt says:

        and to publish media that will be distributed to more than one person at a time, a background check must be conducted by ministry of truth(average of 6 months to complete), a 200 dollar media tax must be paid, and you must get approval from your local chief political officer.

        1. avatar Arkansas kurt says:

          also new material, written after 1986 that can be disseminated to more than one person at a time, can only be published by government entities in the ministry of truth.

      3. avatar John P. says:

        Effective this year, all newly published articles must have a unique identifier associated with the journalist embedded in at least two places. it shall be illegal to reproduce or retransmit the article if this information is removed, altered or defaced.

  5. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

    No one “needs” journalism.

    1. avatar Marcus (Aurelius) Payne says:

      That’s good since there’s so little left.

  6. avatar Publius says:

    He forgot to ban articles over 500 words, otherwise known as “high capacity assault articles”, as well as industrial print machines or printers – only the government needs to print that many documents!

    1. avatar Cliff H says:

      And electronic word processors capable of creating 30 magazines in half a minute.

      1. avatar Chadwick P. says:


      2. avatar LarryinTX says:

        This type of weapon is only good for disseminating the greatest number of lies possible in the shortest possible time! They must be BANNED, I tell you!

      3. avatar BDub says:

        I’m going to go ahead and propose the NFA (National Fonts Act). We need to get a handle on the number of fonts being used in modern journalism. Many of them are completely unnecessary and/or irresponsibly used. Some reasonable limit on font choice is just common sense publishing, really.

        1. avatar Marcus (Aurelius) Payne says:

          Dnt forget to make comic sans a capital offense.

        2. avatar Joe Mama says:

          Who needs a 24 point font anyway? They’re just used to intimidate.

  7. avatar Wood says:

    Eff ’em if they can’t take a joke!!! I love it. Freedom of the press is one thing when they’re thorough, truthful/accurate, and respectful. Modern media is none of those things.

  8. avatar SpeleoFool says:

    Wondering when Starbucks will politely request that people stop bringing in their laptops to type whoknowswhat.

  9. avatar MattG says:

    How about an interactive map of all those registered journalists home and work addresses – you know, so we know where these dangerous people are and can avoid those locations?

  10. avatar Roger Cain says:


    C’mon journalist…..”sign up or shut up”… your words are dangerous.

  11. avatar Rikoshay says:

    And no straw poof readers neither.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      That’s what *I’M* talkin’ ’bout! Them danged POOF readers!

    2. avatar Julio says:

      Ghost writer publishing under a pseudonym or for the benefit of a non-licensed journalist (who didn’t or couldn’t pass a background check)?

  12. avatar fuque says:

    No one NEEDS 500 to 1000 characters to make their point.. ….Journalist free zones… It just makes people safer to keep them out of certain areas.. I wouldnt feel safe having Journalists running around intimidating people with their words.

    1. avatar BigDaveinVT says:

      Ironically, I’m sure Alex Baldwin and his chums (I’m looking at you, Sean Penn) could get behind the journalist free zone thing.

  13. avatar Ironbear says:

    Well, you know, no one really needs an assault journalist. Our Founding Fathers never envisioned the high speed internet and rapid fire capabilities of Twitter that allows one to malign hundreds of people while spreading massive amounts of disinformation in a matter of minutes. And really, licensed Military Public Relations Specialists and governmental Press Secretaries are the Only Ones that have the training and experience needed to wield speech effectively and responsibly. Private journalists have neither the training nor the temperament to use free speech – if they’re allowed to have access to it without common sense speech safety restrictions, there’ll be libel in the streets, editorial fights on every street corner, conservatives holding rallies on campuses… it’ll be the days of Yellow Journalism all over again!

    1. avatar LifeAbounds says:

      ^W I N N E R^

      1. avatar Ironbear says:

        Thank yew, thank yew. Two shows a night – we’re here all week. Try the veal, and don’t forget to tip your waitress.

    2. avatar Mark N. says:

      After all, “the pen is mightier than the sword.”

    3. avatar DJZ says:

      Wow, look at it from the other side,,,any other side. Sad.

  14. avatar MurrDog says:

    Ban the use of contractions. No one needs those short, concealable words. They only make it easier for someone to sneak more words into an article. No law abiding journalist has a need for them.

    1. avatar SteveInCO says:

      And abbreviations.

      Abbrev’s are the Sat Nite Spcls of language.

  15. avatar Quagmire says:

    No open carrying of microphones or cameras in schools or government buildings. And “Freelance” writers cannot sell more than two stories a month, for profit, otherwise they shall be considered journalists and licensing shall apply. I’m sure New Jersey will be a “May-issue” state and the prospective journalist will have to prove why their opinions or stories are relevant and safe enough to read by the general public.

    1. avatar Ironbear says:

      Open carry! What about licensing for Concealed Bylines?! I think those should be “May Issue.”

      And NO Concealed Bylines on campus, either. Nor within a distance of less than 50 feet of a school.

    2. avatar Ken Clawson says:

      And the journolisters have to qualify each year and write a story that is actually important covering all the facts being on (target) topic. Because, failing to reach your audience and providing accurate information is so very important.

  16. avatar alexander says:

    People that leave comments on social media sites shall be limited to 10 “likes” per month, otherwise they would be considered “journalists” and shall follow the registration and fees schedules required by their state.

  17. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

    ‘No doubt some will object to the fact that Pitts is abusing the legislative process just to make a political point.’

    Ah, should all our legislation be so benign.

    Personally I always considered voting rights the perfect comparison to 2nd Amendment rights. Despite the fact that voting rights didn’t even get an amendment in the Bill of Rights much less such stern language as ‘shall not be infringed’, imagine the uproar of making people undergo a background check and pay a fee to vote!

    1. avatar Chadwick P. says:

      That sounds like the death of the democratic party right there.

      1. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

        Yea, that’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

    2. avatar Tracker3 says:

      I submit that all people going to vote, get a concealed weapons license as well. Since the CCL holder goes through stringent background checks from the FBI the same standard be used for the voter.

  18. avatar Chris in NC says:

    Maybe do like some states. Who would need to publish more than one article in a 30 day period? 10 day waiting period to publish an article, you wouldn’t want to publish anything in the heat of the moment. Maybe have list of words that are “safe” to be used by the public. Oh and only certain colors of ink, you wouldn’t want to use an ink that may harm the environment.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      Our college and university liberal arts divisions and administrations are already hard at work on the “safe,” “not safe,” and “offensive” words lists. He she and it are on the banned list.

  19. avatar ChrisInCT says:

    No ones going to confiscate your word processors

  20. avatar Rikoshay says:

    And paraphrasing only leads to a round robin society. And none of those things that go, that look like a cat’s AZZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And if you like your words you can eat them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. avatar MiniMe says:

    No journalist needs a word processor that can type more than 7 words per minute, or a printer that has a black thingy that goes up, or a high-capacity blog/website.

    Ban the assault media. It’s just plain common sense, so do it for the children!

    Never mind the 1st amendment, look at this baby!! 😀

  22. avatar Rikoshay says:

    I better stop. The Makers is making me think way faster then this thing will let my two fingers type.

  23. avatar BluesMike says:

    I say we do everything we can to support this bill getting passed and then getting it in every state. Then sit back and watch as the “journalists” spend millions or billions of dollars getting it un-passed in the court systems all around the country.

    1. avatar Wood says:

      Yes, as they’re so fond of pointing out, “let the courts sort it out.”

  24. avatar Jim Reeves says:

    I propose “background checks” on all journalists, to make sure they can write responsibly.

  25. avatar Bill G says:

    “No one needs to write more than one article a month.”

    “Responsible journalists will submit their articles for a Federal fact-check, and after a five day waiting period they can be published.”

    “I support common-sense free speech.”

  26. avatar barnbwt says:

    Satire, m’boy, satire. Something that was once a sacred institution in our nation’s media (and tyrannical England before that), an ‘extreme sport’ if you will, which has been supplanted by the purely outrageous endlessly & mindlessly trying to out-do each other.

  27. avatar Wrightl3 says:

    If background checks are required, bye bye MSM.

  28. avatar LifeAbounds says:

    I could not be more proud of ALL of the above.
    Intelligent. Thought provoking. Wickedly precise in its focus of satire.
    RF, you must be smiling…

    1. avatar Ironbear says:

      I think we need a million something march, just to drive the point home. What should we call it?

  29. avatar Sammy^ says:

    This is a slippery slope if I ever saw one. Students at an ivy league university signed a phony petition to repeal the First Amendment. A sword like that could cut the wrong way.

  30. avatar F the constitution says:

    Fuck yeah!!! I say talk about it, be about it!!!!! Who needs the first amendment?!?!?! It’s not like it’s 1775. No one NEEDS to speak out against the government. Just keep your head down and aviod conflict,

  31. avatar boardsnbikes says:

    Naturally, the background check would be necessary before each publication or expression because the journalist may have turned into a lawless monster since their last publication even if they just did a check moments before. If it spares one mind…

    1. avatar CarlosT says:

      And if the government doesn’t come through with an answer, you can just keep waiting. No default proceeds for you.

      1. avatar boardsnbikes says:

        Outstanding! Our current administration has taught me that length of time is a sufficient standard for vetting a person. It does not matter if there are or are not ready, verifiable sources of original information on an individual.

  32. avatar sagebrushracer says:

    Well, things are looking good so far, we will register the gun owners, journalists, R/C pilots and everyone else we don’t like. We can make em wear armbands!

    We already have a secret court with secret judges deciding who gets on the secret list that you can’t fly. I guess the next logical step is to send the ones we don’t like the most into camps, for the greater good.

    Time to update those old plans from the 1940s, modernize those gas chambers and revamp the ovens to meet EPA specs! If your going to do something do it reich!

    1. avatar rick3 says:

      ^^^^^^^ I see what you did there!

  33. avatar Xanthro says:

    We also need Smart Printing, because you wouldn’t want a child or someone else printing someone under your name.
    All printers, copiers and any device capable of reproducing a printed image or text or be displayed on screen must be equipped with a Bio-metric lock to only allow authorized people to use the device.
    Smart Printing is only common sense, and why would people want dumb printing?

  34. avatar Ad Astra says:

    Everyone knows the Founders only meant that the written and printed word are protected. Photography, film/video, and audio recording are clearly not protected by the 1st Amendment.

  35. avatar Louis Marschalko says:

    The first two amendments to our federal constitution are a pair. They should be interpreted similarly by the courts. We don’t have to “prove” that we are qualified to exercise our pre-existing rights as recognized by the First Amendment. Neither should we have to “prove” that we are qualified to exercise our pre-existing rights as recognized by the Second Amendment.

    1. avatar Wood says:

      That’s the point of this exercise. To rub their noses in their hypocrisy.

  36. avatar jginsc says:

    In the state of New York any reporting should be limited to 7 words maximum. TV news casts should be limited to 7 minutes. New York Times and other news publications should be limited to 7 pages and 7 words per article.

  37. avatar Partigiano says:

    For those who read the Washington Post’s spew on this but not the admission of being trolled:

    Lol’d, literally. He admits he got trolled by an obvious satire bill, and still manages to be self-righteous about it and come out with a salient point. He fails of course. And continues to get destroyed in the comments.

  38. avatar peirsonb says:

    I get the point. Actually, I really like the point. I question the vessel….there is always a chance that this will pass. Stranger things have happened. In that event he just caused 30 or 40 major steps backward on the first only to gain a talking point regarding the second…

  39. avatar Sison says:

    It actually make a lot of sense, after all the pen is mightier than the gun err sword lol!

  40. avatar pg2 says:

    Joke. Investigative journalism is long extinct. Modern day “journalists” are establishment mouthpieces, teleprompters and scripts for mass herd consumption.

  41. avatar Wiregrass says:

    Please include a qualification requirement such as submitting a writing sample to be reviewed for proper grammar, spelling and punctuation by a local board of English teachers. We need common sense sentence safety.

  42. avatar Mike W. says:

    This is the worst. Some of you actually think putting a price tag on freedom of the press can be a beneficial thing? Wow. This would only server to shut down independent media, the only places where you can get the FACTS.

  43. avatar Jim Bullock says:

    Oh the extra deliciousness is the ACLU beclowning themselves, but I repeat.myself.

  44. avatar Jim Bullock says:

    It’s The Sokal Hoax all over again. /Popcorn

    Here’s an intro, to T S H, for those not familiar, but get the book by the instigator (perpetrator?, troll?) The trolled folks’ contortions of self- justification n calumny after the fact are worthy of Cirque de Solei.

  45. avatar BLKGsx says:

    We need to close the social media/ blogger loophole.

  46. avatar Marcus (Aurelius) Payne says:

    Guys, don’t forget about the recent push for the fairness doctrine. The progressives would actually favor this if they felt they could make the media lean further left through licensing. They frequently want to ban hate speech if they can define it to be mere disagreement with them.

  47. avatar MeRp says:

    Practicing Journalism without a license should be a Felony offense. Felons should also be disallowed from becoming legal Journalists. Those two provisions are missing from this law. Otherwise the law seems as good as most gun control laws in most states.

  48. avatar pg2 says:

    If we could close the special interest/government paid to post astroturfer complex, that would be a nice start.

  49. avatar Roymond says:

    Next up: common-sense regulation of religion. No one should be allowed to be a believer without demonstrating competent knowledge of his/her holy book and the major doctrines of his/her faith. There’s no need to go to church/temple/whatever more than once a month.

  50. avatar fuque says:

    Journalists who’s stories are not based on facts will be put on the no fly list, of coarse they wont know they are on one unless they attempt to board… NO REFUNDS!… we can start with brain Williams and work out way up to the Puffington host crew.

  51. avatar Canon says:

    If our Courts had a sense of humor, you could file this article and equally important, the comments, as an Amicus Brief. Well done!

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