A common argument for gun control advocates is that no right is absolute, and rights need to be regulated. Over and over they bring up one simple argument, “Freedom of speech is regulated, you can’t yell fire in a theatre.” This is true, most of the time, but it’s not even a close comparison when it comes to the second amendment. I’ll hopefully explain why, and give you, the readers, a way to argue the point that gun control advocates love to claim.
First let’s actually explore what they are saying. First the phrase itself comes from the case of a World War 1 conscription protester. The phrase itself claims your freedom of speech is not protected when you yell fire in a theatre. The reason being is that this can cause people to panic, which could cause them to try and rush out of the theatre. This could cause people to be injured, and killed in the panic.
The first problem is that theatres and people have changed dramatically. Fire in a theatre in 1919 surely meant people would die. These building were small, and likely built from something that would go up in flames very quickly, and without modern fire codes, the entrances and exits were quite limited. Modern theatres are much larger, better built. and people rely on high-tech electronic alarms. So what would happen if you yelled fire in a theater these days? You’d probably be ignored, and most likely ridiculed. You could be charged with attempting to incite a panic, but more than likely you’d simply be asked to leave the theatre.
The saying itself hardly holds any water in modern society.
Next, the main issue with the saying is that it being illegal to yell fire in a theatre is an inaccurate comparison to owning a firearm. Even if that firearm looks scary, holds more than ten rounds, and is semi-automatic. Most gun control laws are not aimed at actually stopping crime, but preventing people from arbitrarily owning certain firearms, inserting useless waiting periods, and making it as much of a pain as possible for a legal gun owner to exercise their rights. None of these laws and gun control measures can be compared to yelling fire in a crowded theatre.
The reason being is that yelling fire in a theatre is actually do something with the intent to cause harm, to or to cause panic, which could cause harm. Owning a thirty round magazine is not actively do anything to cause panic, or to cause harm. Owning an AR 15 is not an action that causes panic, or that causes harm. An AR 15 can cause harm, yes, but the action of owning or possessing one does not cause harm in itself.
If you were to compare regulations on freedom of speech to the regulations already imposed, or the regulations gun control advocates are attempting to impose, you’d have to say that the freedom of speech is regulated by cutting off the tongue. Simple possession of the tongue would be a crime.
When the term like ‘yelling fire in a theatre’ is used for gun control it would be more accurate to compare yelling fire in a theatre, to shooting a firearm in the air haphazardly. Some may argue that simply buying a gun is an action, and it is, but unless it’s done with the intent to harm someone it cannot be restricted. Being born with a tongue and the eventual ability to speak is not evidence you plan to shout fire in a theatre.
Until a gun control advocate comes out and claims that they are making it more illegal to shoot a firearm up in the air at random then their little yelling fire in a theatre hardly holds any water. The fact they still use the phrase and think it’s even a close comparison to fair regulation shows how far gone they are.