The Left is missing the target with its tireless attacks on the Second Amendment. It is going after the wrong one. To really control America, it should be tackling the First Amendment, where most of the real trouble begins.
It would be easy. Heck, I'll help. The First Amendment is antiquated, passé and laughably outmoded in a nation increasingly comfortable with shredding its founding documents. It barely is more than a convenient dodge for the American Civil Liberties Union. People who do not know any better invoke it in every imaginable circumstance and newspapers love to tout it in their entryways, a talisman of sorts against government bullying -- as if they already were not Big Brother's handmaidens.
The amendment is bewildering; its meaning constantly mined and sifted and evaluated against the changing mores and political whims of nine old fogies on a faraway court. Can perverts openly advocate diddling small boys? Can neo-Nazi's march in Skokie? Is money political speech? Can you silence the idiots at Westboro Baptist Church? The First Amendment in modern America is as relevant and appealing as yesterday's soggy french fries. Who would miss it? It only adds to the national insanity.
Our Founding Fathers -- elitist white fools who feared government rather than embrace it -- never could have imagined computers, YouTube, the Internet, Facebook, email, iPhones or Twitter. It was simpler then. Parchment and ink and pamphlets were the dot.com offerings; religion a valued part of everyday life. People gathered to talk -- and they thought they should have a say about anything. Things moved glacially. James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and their misogynistic, slave-owning ilk never could have envisioned today's lightning-bolt dissemination of information -- or the upheaval and heartache it causes.
Things are different. Faster. The only way we should keep the quaint First Amendment unabridged, the Left should argue, is if people are willing to go back to quill and ink, the smooth-bore literary musket of those days. Our forefathers never could have foreseen the information explosion -- or its destructive power.
Oh, you could make a case for dumping the pesky Fourth, Fifth or Fourteenth amendments, but face it, the First is the problem. It allows people to whine and lie, and government is helpless. Folks can write stupid criticism or offer on television any insult they please. Our forefathers never anticipated that. It allows Republicans to spread lies about Democrats and fosters weird religions that smoke dope and play with snakes. It hampers our betters' ability to keep us thinking right. Worst, it allows unfair criticism of government. The First Amendment is what happens when freedom runs amok.
What can be done? A lot. For starters, the Left already has a strategy in place. There would be no talk of repealing the First Amendment, the ultimate goal. That will come later. We ask only for "reasonable" laws and "compromise." It is, after all, "for the children" and a "majority of Americans agree."
Nobody, we say, "needs" a computer that can spew out millions of words and photographs a day. Why not limit computer ownership -- or the daily number of words and photographs and cartoons sent out -- unless a person is, say, a journalist or teacher or works in government?
Because words are so dangerous, so apt to trigger violence -- just go into a bar in Green Bay and praise the Minnesota Vikings -- it would be "rational" to restrict those allowed to disseminate more than a daily allowance, and certify their publications. We would need government boards to license reporters and photographers and authors, but only after stringent, universal background checks. That is only a "common sense" approach.
To buy a computer, camera or smart phone -- or anything that could disseminate information -- a buyer would have to fill out forms inquiring about citizenship status and certify who actually would use the device. Felons, anti-government nuts and anybody adjudicated mentally ill or institutionalized would be barred. There would be a national database of buyers, but no registration. That is a "small step."
We would allow private sales initially, but clamp down later, when we restrict the Internet and Twitter, as we surely must to make America safer.
We also should object to new religions and there could be a church validity test, a sort of, "Is your deity for real?" kind of thing. That could come later
Once the First Amendment is under control, the Second will be no problem.
Paul Jenkins is editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com.