The Second Amendment Has Become a Threat to the First

The Second Amendment Has Become a Threat to the First

Firearms are having a documented chilling effect on free speech. Getty; The Atlantic About the authors: Diana Palmer is a doctor of law and policy from Northeastern University and a local elected official. Her research examines the chilling effect of firearms on First Amendment expression at public protests. Timothy Zick is a professor of law at William & Mary Law School and author of the forthcoming book Managed Dissent: The Law of Public Protest. Many Americans fervently believe that the Second Amendment protects their right to bear arms everywhere, including at public protests. Many Americans also believe that the First Amendment protects their right to speak freely and participate in political protest. What most people do not realize is that the Second Amendment has become, in recent years, a threat to the First Amendment. People cannot freely exercise their speech rights when they fear for their lives. This is not hyperbole. Since January 2020, millions of Americans have assembled in public places to protest police brutality, systemic racism, and coronavirus protocols, among other things. A significant number of those protesters were confronted by counterprotesters visibly bearing firearms. In some of these cases, violence erupted. According to a new study by Everytown for Gun Safety and the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), one in six armed protests that took place from January 2020 through June 2021 turned violent or destructive, and one in 62 turned deadly. These kind of data fill a void in ongoing debates about […]

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