, Salem, MA

November 29, 2013

Benton: Intimidation and the First Amendment

Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — A disturbing trend in modern-day America is the lack of tolerance by some for opinions with which they disagree, and their willingness to resort even to the threat of violence to stifle those contrary views.

Case in point: the absurd reaction to Swampscott Selectman Barry Greenfield’s question about how local police might be expected to enforce a state law requiring all firearms to be secured, even in the owner’s home.

The mere suggestion that police might have the right to verify that an individual’s weaponry was properly locked away and, thus, safe from children or others unable to safely handle the equipment, brought a flood of invective from all over the country.

These intimidation tactics become increasingly common among those extremists who value the right to possess a gun over even the right to life. The subject was quickly dropped in Swampscott, and elsewhere in the U.S., newspaper editors who have had the temerity to ask for a list of those licensed to carry — a matter of public record that should be as readily available as a list of those who pay property taxes — have been chased out of town.

Polls show that even in the wake of massacres like those in Tucson, Ariz., and Newtown, Conn., support remains high for a liberal interpretation of the Second Amendment. And Congress has thus far shown no willingness to limit even the type of firearm one may carry or the number of rounds it can fire.

Americans living near the border may decry the violence they see occurring in Mexico, but the fact is many of the guns used to create that mayhem come from the good, old USA. And for too many visitors who come here from other countries, the U.S. is little removed from the days of the Wild West.

There are those who insist that having the right to carry a gun is essential to protecting one’s family and, more ominously, keeping our government in check. That’s fine.

But there’s something called the First Amendment that gives others the right to disagree.


Brace yourselves for yet another visit to the fiscal precipice right after the holidays.

Members of the tea-party faction in Congress, in full retreat just a few weeks ago after a very unpopular government shutdown, are feeling their oats once again as a result of the disastrous rollout of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

The 2014 midterm election, recently seen as a likely rout for the Democrats, is now viewed as a toss-up again. And the new treaty with Iran limiting its ability to produce nuclear weapons is unlikely to give the president much of a bump in the polls.

In retrospect, Republicans would have performed the White House a great favor had they prevailed in their effort to push back implementation of Obamacare by a year. And the president could likely have wrung a host of concessions like the end of sequestration and a long-term deal on the debt ceiling from the GOP.

Instead, it now appears likely we’re in for yet another scary ride to the edge of the fiscal cliff just after the Christmas tree comes down and glasses are raised to celebrate the new year.


The president had one big fan in the late Al Ruscio, the Salem native and accomplished actor who was also an occasional columnist for this newspaper. His liberal views, like those from every other point of the political spectrum, were always welcome on these pages. His friendship and tales of Hollywood will be missed.