, Salem, MA


November 29, 2013

Benton: Intimidation and the First Amendment

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.

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