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Published December 25 2012

Forum editorial: The first, second and fourth

Gun control opponents tend to broad-brush the “liberal” media as being in favor of strict gun controls. They like to compare the media’s ballistic reaction when First Amendment free-speech rights are threatened to the media’s role in the erosion (as they see it) of Second Amendment gun owners’ rights.

The assumption in the bogus comparison is that provisions in amendments to the U.S. Constitution are absolute. They are not; never have been.

Consider the First. Reporters and others are obligated to work in the context of a complex body of libel and slander laws. Laws prohibit certain kinds of religious speech in specific public places. It’s a federal crime to threaten the president. Speech that is judged to incite riot is prohibited.

The Second in particular is not absolute. Established law prohibits citizen ownership of all sorts of weapons and munitions. States can, and do, keep guns out of schools, churches and other public places. At some schools students cannot have a hunting gun in their vehicles on school property. Most gun purchases require background checks. Other access to guns requires licenses and/or permits. And so it goes. And so it should.

But it is the Fourth Amendment – the one that guarantees “the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures” – that most clearly demonstrates that the rights in the Bill of Rights are subject to reinterpretation. Don’t believe it?

Have you been through airport security recently? Or has an unmanned drone scanned your land? Or have you seen the satellite photos that can pinpoint you sipping a beer in the backyard? Or have you strolled beneath the police cameras in downtown Fargo? Fourth Amendment purists might see those things as “unreasonable searches and seizures,” but under established and tested law, they are not.

So the next time a gun-toting Second Amendment “scholar” criticizes the “liberal” media for having a double standard regarding the amendments, don’t buy it. It’s a smokescreen, a diversion from the issue at hand: what to do about gun violence.

If it’s today, world did not end on Friday

If you’re reading this over mid-week morning coffee, the world did not end last Friday. Breathless predictions by “experts” in the Mayan calendar were wrong. Old blue Earth is still spinning through the solar system.

The gullible who bought into the lucrative fiction (lots of money made from books, TV specials, movies) should have checked with descendants of the Maya. The “end” of their calendar, they said, marks the end of one era and the beginning of another, not the end of the world.

What about the self-delusional sillies who believed it would all be over by now? Be assured they’ll find a way to misread some other ancient text – Sumerian or Incan or Atlantian or Babylonian, or who knows what.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.