Robert Romano
Guest Columnist
Parkland surviving student David Hogg has now expanded his national gun control campaign to seek to silence dissident voices, including Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, after Ingraham mocked Hogg’s rejections from some colleges.
Hogg then threatened to wage a national boycott of prominent advertisers on Ingraham’s program, resulting in 17 advertisers pulling out the program as of this writing.
Fortunately, so far, Fox is holding its ground. Jack Abernethy, co-president of the 21st Century Fox-owned cable outlet, issued a statement declaring, “We cannot and will not allow voices to be censored by agenda-driven intimidation efforts. We look forward to having Laura Ingraham back hosting her program next Monday when she returns from spring vacation with her children.” Good for Fox, and good for Abernethy.
Still, the speed that advertisers are backing out is frightening. Our free press system relies on financial resources to hold prominent public figures, like Hogg, accountable for their words and actions.
But wait, isn’t Hogg just a high school student? Yes, he is. Who survived a national tragedy and who now is leading a campaign that in fact endangers constitutional rights beyond the Second Amendment individual right to keep and bear arms.
Even though he is not a government official, through fear, Hogg’s attack on Ingraham indirectly endangers First Amendment freedoms including the right to speak out and criticize public officials. Agree or disagree with Ingraham on a host of issues, she is a voice who tries to hold government officials and politicians accountable. The intimidating tactics Hogg is using are usually reserved for silencing dissidents in non-free countries.
In a very short span of time, David Hogg has become a dangerous demagogue who should not be underestimated, who is exploiting a national tragedy to take away individual rights and to have his critics thrown off the air who disagree. He is leading a mob, and if it is not roundly denounced now, there’s no telling where it might end up. I hesitate to guess but the implications are real enough. The First and Second Amendments could just be the appetizer.
Since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre on Feb. 14, there are already calls, for example by former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, to repeal the Second Amendment and ban semi-automatic firearms.
When I brought this to my wife’s attention, who is neither a gunowner nor really all that interested in politics, her initial reaction was that without the Second Amendment, who would protect individuals’ First Amendment rights when the government started cracking down on those, too?
Her implication was that without the right to keep and bear arms, the American people would lack the means to defend themselves, not simply against criminals like the killer at Parkland Nikolas Cruz, but potentially against a tyrannical government. She’s right.
After the Massachusetts rebellion broke out in 1775, one of the British government’s first acts was to seize the gunpowder from the magazine in Williamsburg, Va. and put it on a Royal Navy ship. It is what governments do when it views its own citizens as a threat.
Since the Stevens’ oped, Hogg and others in the March for our Lives movement have clarified they are not in favor of repealing the Second Amendment. Which really is not of any comfort. It’s a dodge. And the zeal Hogg has engendered in his followers, already three quarters of a million on Twitter, is truly alarming.
What makes it more so is the disingenuousness of the platform Hogg stands upon, that pretends, as he did on March 22, that this is not about banning guns: “I think that a lot of people that are out there that are fearing what we’re saying right now think that we’re going to try to take their guns and we’re not. The Never Again movement and March for our Lives is not trying to take your guns, we’re trying to take back our lives because just as much as you have a right to own a weapon, we have the right to liberty, we have the right to peace and we have the right to live.”
But on March 24 on NPR, Hogg told the world what he really thinks, explaining to host Scott Simon he was calling for “a ban on high-capacity magazines and an assault weapons ban.”
Since fully automatic weapons have been illegal since 1986, all an assault weapons ban could possibly mean is a prohibition on the sale and possession of semi-automatic rifles and perhaps handguns, too, as Stevens called for. You see, we’re left to surmise since Hogg is not nearly specific enough for somebody who’s supposed to be leading a national movement on gun control.
So, by his own words, Hogg is a liar. On March 22 he declared “The Never Again movement and March for our Lives is not trying to take your guns” and on March 24 he called for “an assault weapons ban,” implicating semi-automatics owned by millions of Americans.
In fact, there are approximately 85 million semi-automatic firearms in this country out of more than 300 million guns. Leaving aside what for Hogg must be a footnote that such a ban and then confiscation would be blatantly unconstitutional — what part of “keep and bear arms” is ambiguous? — and the fact that such a move could conceivably tear this country asunder, that’s a lot of guns for the government to take away that he promised wouldn’t be.
On March 11 on Twitter, Hogg implored, “Can we please not debate this as Democrats and Republicans but discuss this as Americans?” Yes, let’s discuss this. Which is it, Mr. Hogg, confiscating 85 million semi-automatics or not? Please discuss your obvious contradiction.
A free people are those who are armed, and those who forget that will not long remain a free people.
Now, by making an example of Ingraham, Hogg and his adherents hope to use fear for one’s livelihood to silence critics who favor gun rights. Good luck with that. Fox News should continue to stand by Ingraham, or more heads will be put into these public guillotines. It won’t end with her.
Yes, we all have a right to live. And as a part of that, we all have a right and in fact a duty to oppose the likes of demagogues like Hogg who might one day seek higher office and really do a number on individual rights and have his critics removed from public view. Now is the time to speak up against his misguided agenda because later, it might be too late.
Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.