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The Bill of Rights and public safety

Posted: January 21, 2013 - 1:00am

The First Amendment does not protect me if I yell “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater. Why not? That kind of free speech endangers the public safety. People in the theater, hearing “Fire!” would run, perhaps injuring themselves or others in their rush to get out.

The First Amendment does not protect me if I held a demonstration in the middle of a busy intersection during rush hour. Why not? We do have a right to peaceably assemble. But not when it endangers public safety. Pedestrians holding signs in the street with cars hurtling by is a danger to their safety and that of others.

The First Amendment does not protect this newspaper if it published this headline: “The Martians Have Landed!” Freedom of the press does not extend to terrifying readers and causing a panic. It would endanger public safety.

The Second Amendment does not protect my owning a scud missile. Yes, we do have a right to keep and bear arms. But not when it would endanger public safety. The Second Amendment should not protect guns that can kill many people in a few minutes. Their ownership in private hands endangers all of us because they have the very real potential, as has been shown over and over and over, to be used to massacre people, adults and children.

We do have the right to free speech, to peaceably assemble, to keep and bear arms, but not when these rights endanger the safety of us all.

Bridget Smith

Juneau

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