18 Apr 2007

Press Control, Not Gun Control

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Murderous attacks like the recent homicides at Virginia Tech always produce demands for some sacrifice of liberty as part of a program of preventive measures intended to prevent their recurrence.

A PersonfromPolock, at the Volokh Conspiracy, observes (not entirely tongue-in-cheek) that slightly reducing the immunities supplied by the First Amendment would do a lot more to help than eviscerating the Second Amendment.

To the Editor:

A practical, commonsense way of reducing gun violence — especially in the schools — would be a federal law prohibiting, or at least seriously limiting, the interstate reporting of sensational gun crimes like Virginia Tech for five working 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.

While ‘gun’ laws are hard to enforce because of the easy concealment of firearms, the public nature of ‘news’ would make enforcement of this law virtually automatic.

Because the delay would be short and serve a compelling government interest, it should pass constitutional muster; the Brady law serves admirably as a precedent here. While First Amendment absolutists will cavil, the simple fact is that it is as wrong 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.

Sincerely,

For some reason, even though the suggested law would clearly be ‘worth trying’ (a standard rationale of the Left), no ‘anti gun violence’ paper has ever published it.

Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds.

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