Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Common-Sense First Amendment Restrictions

Great letter to the Editor of the NYT:
To the Editor:
A practical, commonsense way of reducing gun violence -- especially against schoolchildren -- would be a federal law prohibiting, or at least seriously limiting, the interstate reporting of sensational gun crimes like Columbine, Virginia Tech and now Westroads Mall for seven days.
Such a law would not affect local coverage, where there is a need for the immediate dissemination of information, but would make the event 'old news' when it was finally reported nationally and therefore unlikely to get the massive publicity that invites further, copycat violence. Even a small reduction in today's intense coverage of such events might, by not stimulating some potential gunman to action, save lives. Surely the responsible media would be willing to wait a week to save a life.
Experience has shown that 'gun' laws are hard to pass, and harder to enforce because of the easy transportation and concealment of firearms. Given the concern of the national media with gun violence and the public nature of 'news', passage and enforcement of this law should be virtually automatic.
Because the proposed publication delay would be short and serve a compelling government interest, it will pass Constitutional muster; the Brady law serves admirably as a precedent here. While the pornographers of violence and their cynical corporate sponsors will raise a smokescreen of First Amendment 'concerns' to protect their profits, the simple fact is that it is as wrong – and as wrongful -- to hold that the Press Clause protects a media 'right' to lethally endanger the public as it would be to hold that the Religion Clause protects human sacrifice.
I solicit your endorsement of this proposal.
Sincerely, etc.
Oddly enough, it hasn't made it past an editor yet.