A state legislator in South Carolina introduced a bill last week that seeks to establish a state registry for “responsible journalists.”
State Rep. Mike Pitts, a Republican from Laurens, South Carolina, said he modeled his bill after laws that require “responsible firearm owners” to register their guns. Under the proposed legislation, any journalist who is caught working without having paid to be listed on the state registry could face a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.
Pitts was apparently upset over the fact that some “journalists” (I’m being gracious with that term, because he probably means bloggers, columnists and pundits) are arguing for tighter gun registration laws in the wake of the shooting in Charleston last summer that left nine churchgoers dead.
While I personally disagree with most gun control measures, requiring journalists to register in a government database isn’t only asinine, it violates everyone’s right to free speech.
Pitts seems to be ignorant of the Sedition Act, a law signed in 1798 by the second U.S. President, John Adams.
The Sedition Act sought to silence any and all criticism of the federal government, a practice that many of us now take for granted.
Thomas Jefferson repealed the Sedition Act after he won the election in 1800, and I thank God that he did.
Could you imagine living in a country that would require citizens to register as “responsible critics of the federal government?” Besides, if we couldn’t freely criticize public officials for crafting dumb laws, where would we be as a nation?
Ironically, Pitts later spoke to — of all people — journalists and admitted that he had no intentions of seeing the bill through. His only aim was to start a conversation about First Amendment and Second Amendment rights.
Yet, the only conversation I can seem to entertain is that Pitts introduced frivolous legislation rooted in false equivalencies. He wasted both time and tax dollars.
Instead of making this a pedantic discussion about journalists who spout off dumb opinions, maybe the people of South Carolina should push for their representatives to create a “responsible lawmaker registry.”
Perhaps they could even construct a special building for “responsible lawmakers” to meet in and discuss important things. Here’s an idea, let’s even label it something like “House of Representatives” or maybe “State House.”
I know, it sounds crazy, but at least a man can dream.