Gun Nuts Ignore the First Amendment to 'Protect' the Second

Gun rights advocates are calling for the deportation of Piers Morgan because of his expression of his views on guns.

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Celebrity judges of the NBC televison program "America's Got Talent," appear on the "Today" show to promote their show in New York's Rockefeller Center on in this June 19, 2006, file photo.

Protect the Second Amendment, screw the First!

Tens of thousands of people have signed a petition calling for British CNN host Piers Morgan to be deported from the United States over his gun control views. And sadly, I'm not surprised.

Morgan has taken an aggressive stand for tighter U.S. gun laws in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting. Last week, he called a gun advocate appearing on his Piers Morgan Tonight show an "unbelievably stupid man." And that is Mr. Morgan's opinion, which he is entitled to, whether you like his accent or not. Entitled to, you ask? Is he a citizen of this country?! Well, there are a few folks, namely our founding forefathers, and more currently constitutional legal experts, who were pretty clear with regard to whose speech is protected by the First Amendment. Noncitizens and permanent residents are also protected under the First Amendment--that is unless, like those of us who are citizens, we're yelling fire in a crowded theatre.

[See a collection of political cartoons on gun control and gun rights.]

But that doesn't seem to faze the gun rights activists. They are fighting back, creating a petition on December 21 on the White House E-petition website. This was done by a user in Texas accusing Morgan of engaging in a "hostile attack against the U.S. Constitution" by targeting the Second Amendment. It demands he be deported immediately for "exploiting his position as a national network television host to stage attacks against the rights of American citizens." The petition has already hit the 25,000 signature threshold to get a White House response.

Unfortunately for Tex and those who signed this petition, they shouldn't hold their breath. Noncitizens, and especially permanent residents, have statutory rights to remain in the country unless they've done (or there's sufficient reason to think they've done) certain bad things—at least until Congress revises the statutes to broaden the grounds for deportation. Even if the Executive Branch decides to deport someone, it has to have statutorily authorized grounds, and it has to provide hearings at which an immigration judge decides whether the conditions for deportation are met. The government may not criminally punish noncitizens—or presumably impose civil liability on them—based on speech that would be protected if said by a citizen. See Bridges v. Wixon (1945).

[See a collection of editorial cartoons on the Newtown shooting.]

And how has Piers Morgan responded? Actually, he seemed unfazed, perhaps even amused by all of this. On Twitter he urged his followers to sign the petition, and in response to one article about the petition he said "bring it on" as he appeared to track the petition's progress. "If I do get deported from America for wanting fewer gun murders, are there any other countries that will have me?" he wrote.

What bothers me about this is the blatant hypocrisy of those gun rights proponents. As a liberal, I push for stricter gun control measures; I always have, even before Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tuscon, Aurora, Portland, and Newtown, and I have been attacked by the right for wanting to take away their Second Amendment right to bear arms. I and other liberals have been clear we don't want to take their rights away, we just want to protect other Americans, especially our children by restricting military-style weapons with high volume magazine clips. Yet when someone voices their opinion and it is completely contrary to what a gun proponent believes, they have no trouble tramping on their rights...namely the First Amendment.

[Read the U.S. News Debate: Should There Be More Armed Guards in Schools?]

Look, I'm no Piers Morgan fan. As a broadcaster, I get tired of radio programmers and networks hiring people with pretty British accents. I'm a fan of not only buying American, but "hiring American," since I know so many people out there who are unemployed in the field of broadcasting and, quite frankly many of whom I feel are much more talented and qualified interviewers and broadcasters than Mr. Morgan. I don't make the decisions as to who they put on the air at CNN, but I do have a choice what network or program I tune into. And I can assure you, Mr. Morgan's show is not on my list of favorites programmed on my television. 

If the gun enthusiasts really want to hurt Mr. Morgan for his opinions, they should realize it's his ratings, not his residence address they should be attacking. Because if Mr. Morgan's ratings plummet, CNN will hand him his walking papers and as Mitt Romney once proposed, Mr. Morgan will deport himself--perhaps back over the pond for a better cup of tea.

  • Read Mary Kate Cary: What Government Can and Can't Do About the Newtown Shooting
  • Read Peter Roff: What Democrats Mean When They Talk Gun Control
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