Despite his efforts to clarify his remarks, when Democrat California Congressman Ted Lieu said that he would “love to be able to regulate the content of speech,” the comment set off alarm bells among conservatives, especially when he acknowledged that he would like to “regulate Fox News,” but the First Amendment stands in his way.
Lieu was being interviewed by CNN’s Brianna Keilar when he blurted out his thoughts on regulating speech, “But the First Amendment prevents me from doing so,” to which he quickly added, “but I think over the long run, it’s better the government does not regulate the content of speech.”
There are two ways to look at this. One way is probably how the dominant media will let Lieu spin it as a defense of the First Amendment. The other perspective sees reason to be worried, particularly when he posed the rhetorical question, “Would I like to regulate Fox News? Yes, but I can’t because the First Amendment stops me. And that’s ultimately a good thing in the long run.”
But what if the First Amendment didn’t stop him; if the First Amendment was treated like the Second Amendment? While newsroom know-it-alls might dismiss that concern as paranoia—something on the order of “Nobody is going to take your guns”—a brief look at how gun control laws have incrementally eroded the Constitutionally enumerated right to “keep and bear arms” might be in order.
New Jersey enacted a law banning possession of so-called “high capacity magazines.” That ban was upheld earlier this month by a 2-1 federal appeals court ruling with two Barack Obama appointees in the majority and a dissent from a Donald Trump appointee. While New Jersey State Police have insisted they’re not going to go door-to-door to confiscate magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, it’s this sort of Draconian legislation that fuels concern over government erosion of basic rights.
California has gradually tightened its regulation of so-called “assault rifles.” Ditto on handguns, until it almost seems to Golden State gun owners that the Second Amendment stops at the state line.
Washington voters just okayed an initiative that strips young adults of their Second Amendment rights to purchase any kind of a semiautomatic rifle, even a .22-caliber target or small game hunting rifle. That measure was endorsed by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, another Democrat.
Lieu’s acknowledgement that the First Amendment stands in his way might be small solace to free speech advocates because, after all, he said what he said about regulating speech. The proverbial horse has left the barn, and no amount of back-peddling is going to erase his remarks.
Candidly admitting that you would “love to be able to regulate the content of speech” just might be a red flag warning. If the Second Amendment can be regulated into oblivion, what would stop the same sort of thing from happening to the First? Don’t be over-confident with the answer.