One of the left’s favorite tactics is the cherished “gotcha” move: taking a small, specific exception and attempting to make it a broad, overarching rule.
Take the abortion debate, for example. The left likes to use exceptions for rape to make the case that all abortion should be legal, even though rape victims are an extraordinarily small minority of women seeking abortions. It’s just a move to try to push conservatives into a corner.
Leftists use a similar strategy when debating gun control, as Chad Kent noted at TheBlaze.
Conservatives who often engage with leftists may be familiar with the “you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater” line, but some may not be. The point that the left tries to make with the line is that rights, such as the freedom of speech and the right to bear arms, come with restrictions.
The specific phrase itself first came from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ majority opinion in Schenck v. United States (1919) in which the Supreme Court found the dissemination in wartime of leaflets encouraging draft dodging to be unconstitutional.
The phrase has since been twisted by leftists to apply to their anti-Second Amendment agenda when they try to convince conservatives that gun rights come with restrictions.
The comparison between the First and Second Amendments is extremely broad. The notion that there are certain restrictions on rights is well-known, and it’s sad that leftists thinks they have to argue for it.
To make their argument, they must deliberately keep the comparison broad. Upon closer inspection, Justice Holmes’ statement has very little to do with blanket restrictions on free speech, and even less to do with restrictions on gun rights.
The actual quote is as follows:
“The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic. It does not even protect a man from an injunction against uttering words that may have all the effect of force. … The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.”
Kent argues that the left blatantly ignores the reasoning behind Holmes’ statement. You can’t falsely yell “fire” in a crowded theater because of the actions your speech would cause: panic and perhaps injury or death to others.
This restriction doesn’t mean you can never say “fire”; it’s about a specific use of the word.
But if leftists followed their own logic, they would have to argue that saying “fire” is always unconstitutional.
Constitutional rights are absolute until they infringe upon the rights of others. Owning a gun, regardless of the type, does not infringe upon someone else’s right. Using it to threaten, injure or kill them most definitely does.
The word “fire” is just like the gun. Saying it quietly in your own home does not infringe upon the rights of others, but shouting it to cause panic and injury does.
Guns and words are simply tools that act at the behest of their wielders.
In both cases, the left would argue that we need to restrict the use of a certain tool, an argument I agree with.
Leftists go off the rails when they suggest Holmes was advocating for restriction of the word “fire.” He was actually calling for restricting only a certain use of it, which is completely different.
We don’t do that to words. Why would we do it to guns?
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