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January 31, 2013
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Vail Daily Editor and Publisher Don Rogers: First, then the Second

The First Amendment to the Constitution declares clearly that the right to free speech cannot be abridged.

And yet it is, if you consider that it's against the law to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater when there isn't one, or to lie maliciously about people whether talking (slander) or writing (libel). Treason would be another legal abridgement.

All this is well established in judicial interpretation of the First Amendment. Go figure. It's not what the words strictly say.

There remains plenty of gray area, of course, such as whether the First Amendment truly covers advertising for elections, along with various classes of obscenities and any number of issues that lead to conservatives or liberals telling us they are "all for free speech and all that ...," except for whatever exercise of the right is sticking in their craw at the moment.

Fact is, we interpreted from the strict language to arrive at the intent of the founders in phrasing the First Amendment as they did. Our abridgements to the amendment can land you and me in plenty of hot water in the courts. These are no abstractions.

So it's interesting that at least some ardent defenders of the Second Amendment somehow think that what applies to the First doesn't hold with the Second.

After all, strictly interpreted, my freedom of speech should permit me all kinds of verbal mischief.

And the First doesn't even include suggestive opening clauses like "A well regulated militia being necessary ..." as if the intent were not that everyone gets whatever firepower they so desire, but that this was borne out of a need for part-time soldiers (note Amendment III) who are organized in some fashion that is considered "well regulated" - which, ahem, is a government function.

It doesn't say "well organized." It says "regulated." Government often isn't very organized, but by definition it exists always to ... regulate.

I'm not seeing any language that justifies the right to domestic terrorism raised by some observers in their interpretation of the Second Amendment. Notwithstanding Jefferson's quote about a little rebellion now and then, today's Supreme Court seems to see this the same way, thankfully.

So I'm not likely to see a drone or Panzer locked and loaded next door anytime soon.

Naturally, the battles over the amendments come in the margins. That currently means over background checks, cassault weapons and possibly semi-automatic ones.

I'm not sure this regulation effort will make us safer, but business sure is booming for gun dealers.

Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at drogers@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2920.


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The VailDaily Updated Jan 31, 2013 10:34PM Published Jan 31, 2013 10:33PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.