Editorial: 1st Amendment suffers in 2nd Amendment debate

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OK, let’s stipulate the following:

Once a sportsman trade association, the National Rifle Association has morphed into a tool of gun manufacturers to promote industry profits no matter the carnage left in its wake.

It has opposed every single piece of common-sense gun safety legislation that has been proposed in recent years to address national rates of gun-related homicides, suicides and accidental deaths unknown in the rest of the Western world.

Mass shootings of young children in their classroom, worshippers in church, concert-goers, club-goers and movie-goers do nothing to change the group’s policies.

In fact, the NRA has doubled down on them, maintaining that more guns are the answer and promoting gun legislation to further water down already lax legislation.

All that said, should Nassau County supporters of the NRA be barred from holding a fundraising event at the Inn of New Hyde Park?

And should the catering facility be pressured to cancel the event?

Absolutely no to both.

Concerns about Second Amendment abuses should not trample rights protected under the First Amendment – the right to free speech and the “right of the people to peaceably assemble.”

The issue was raised last week when the Nassau County chapter of Moms Demand Action said it was launching a protest campaign after inn management said it planned to keep the event despite the group’s request to reconsider.

“We support the Second Amendment, we support the rights of people to own guns for self-defense and hunting, but the NRA is really nothing but a shill for gun manufacturers,” said Tracy Bacher, a mother of three from Sea Cliff and the head of the local Moms Demand Action chapter.

We don’t disagree with Bacher that the NRA has been shilling for gun manufacturers. But that is their right.

The First Amendment protects all speech – both bad and good.

In fact, the First Amendment’s purpose was to protect unpopular ideas – especially ideas unpopular to those who held political power. Popular ideas, after all, don’t need any protection.

This is based on our Founding Fathers’ belief that the answer to bad speech is good speech, not less speech.

It is true the First Amendment does not protect the Inn at New Hyde Park from people taking their business elsewhere or protesting outside its doors.

But do we really want people who run businesses to screen their customers based on their political views? Like the baker in Colorado who doesn’t want to serve gay people. Or hotel owners in the South who would not serve blacks in the past?

The inn shouldn’t be punished for the politics of its customers any more than a newspaper such as ours should be punished for printing letters from supporters and opponents of the NRA. We stand guilty of both.

Sadly, some elected officials who have sworn an oath to protect the Constitution were eager to join opponents in demanding the NRA cancel the event.

“Children have been murdered in their schools throughout our country. The NRA has refused to back any new, creative ways to curb gun violence and continues to hold many of my colleagues hostage to the status quo,” said U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove).

Suozzi also expressed  concern that the NRA event would “cause even more anxiety to our children and families.”

Sorry, Tom, but it is not the job of the NRA to back “new, creative ways to curb gun violence” – it is the job of Congress. Which has failed to do its job time after time.

And, no, your colleagues are not being held “hostage to the status quo” by the NRA, they are being held hostage by their fear of losing their seats. Which apparently is more important to them than curbing gun violence.

If Suozzi wants to reduce the anxiety of “our children” and families, let him do his job in Congress and persuade his colleagues, including fellow members of the Problem Solvers Caucus, to pass common-sense legislation.

North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Anna Kaplan, the Democratic candidate for the District 7 state Senate seat, explained her call for the NRA event to be canceled by saying  “the families of Nassau have spoken: The NRA is not welcome here. For too long, the NRA has conducted a fear-based operation that prioritizes money over our children’s lives. The time to act isn’t in the wake of another school shooting, but right now.”

Have the families of Nassau really spoken? We must have missed the election.

There is overwhelming support across the county for common-sense gun safety regulation. But there are also those who support the NRA. Are they not welcome in Nassau?

Calling on the NRA or the inn to cancel the event is not taking action against the next school shooting. That will take an informed public getting politically involved and voting. And maybe even talking to NRA supporters.

State Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso (D-Port Washington) seemed to have the right idea when he announced he planned to moderate a gun safety forum in September – on the same day the NRA was planning to hold a fundraiser.

For a fleeting moment, we believed D’Urso would offer to meet with NRA supporters to debate the issue of gun safety regulations or even try to find some common ground.

But, then he added, “The NRA is not welcome here.” 

We can and should do better than that.

2 COMMENTS

  1. We can and we should do better than this preposterous piece, which either intentionally misses the point or is completely ignorant about the event itself and the First Amendment.

    i have neither the time nor the inclination to provide the editorial “board” or whatever passes for one in this “publication” with a remidial civics course. Suffice it to say — the First Amendment protects us against GOVERNMENT interference with free speech and expresion. it does not provide immunity against critism, it does not mandate that anyone listen to the nonsense of any particular speaker, it does not give entry to express yourself through any particular means, or at any particular place. It doea not prevent others from speaking out against you, or from bringing financial pressure to bear to stop a private venue from hosting. It doea not provide protection for a gun auction (which is what this event is). Speech also has absolutely nothing to do with this issue.

    The “Nassau County Friends of the NRA” does not exist. It is a fictional attempt on the part of the NRA to fool people into believeing that there is a community of gun lovers locally. No such entity or non-profit is registered anywhere — it does not exist. The proceeds of this event go to the NRA Foundation, 501(C)(3) not-for-profit which is legally barred from engaging in the very political speech that your “opinion” seeks to protect. (Nevertheless the fake group, through its social media and ads for this event consistently and illegally break that law).

    So what you are talking about is free assembly — not free speech. Of course, like any other amendment, only GOVERNMENT intrusion is barred. It also provides no protection for gun auctions, which again, is what this event is.

    In short, no one seeks to limit speech, or even assembly. What we are doing is utilizing our rights to bring pressure to bear on a venue that is hosting a gun auction and fundraiser, at a wedding venue, near homes and schools, where firearms can be purchased for as little as $20.

    You piece should be withdrawn, or at least amended, as it bears no relation to the law or facts.

  2. 1. You asked “But do we really want people who run businesses to screen their customers based on their political views? Like the baker in Colorado who doesn’t want to serve gay people.”
    I may be mistaken, but I remember when much of the shoot from the hip “reporting” was cleared (pun intended), that the baker did not refuse to serve gay people – he simply declined to make a specific cake for one gay couple because he felt that the cake (design?) creation they wanted went against his personal religious beliefs for him to use his skills to create it.

    2. I agree with your statement of “Sorry, Tom, but it is not the job of the NRA to back “new, creative ways to curb gun violence” – it is the job of Congress. Which has failed to do its job time after time.
    And, no, your colleagues are not being held “hostage to the status quo” by the NRA, they are being held hostage by their fear of losing their seats. Which apparently is more important to them than curbing gun violence.”
    I would however add to that by mentioning what the automobile industry has done to curb automobile violence – nothing? (Not talking safety features – talking what they have done to prevent cars from being used for IED’s or being used to mow down pedestrians on sidewalks, or to prevent a driver who is drunk or high from getting behind the wheel and causing crashes. Nothing I believe. Also not their job to do so.
    Also, to the second paragraph, mention that Tom’s colleagues likely fear of losing NRA donations.

    3. Kudo’s for pointing out that North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Anna Kaplan does not speak for all of the families of Nassau, or at least not the families that do not have an issue with the event. She doesn’t speak for me as I do not remember ANYONE contacting me for my opinion or hearing about ANYONE being contacted as to their opinion on the subject.
    Just because the anti-gun movement gains supporters after a shooting incident and just because everyone (gun hater or not) likely supports the end of unjustified gun violence – does not mean those supporters are against free assembly. Politicians need to understand this before they jump on this, or any other bandwagon.
    To all those who say “The NRA is not welcome here” – what if we decided that the ACLU was not welcome in Nassau?

    Lastly, the NRA event/auction was not being held in a “wedding venue.” The Inn at NHP is an assembly venue where weddings, meetings, large dinner parties and fundraiser’s are held – sometimes several at one time. Also, OMG, it’s being held “near homes and schools, where firearms can be purchased for as little as $20.” So what. If the minimum price was $200.00 would that make it better.

    How is this different than the local gun shops within a stones throw from the Inn at NHP?

    Are the anti-gun fanatics next going to demand the closure of these independent shops?

    They should take their wailing to the politicians where it belongs.

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