The only thing close to a profile in courage came from right-wing Lake Havasu City Republican Ron Gould. The state Senator voted “aye” along with the rest of his colleagues, but he at least seemed a tad troubled by the rush and by the implications of the measure itself.

At one point, Gould stated, “Even idiots have a right to free speech,” and noted that when the rules are thrown out the barn door, “mistakes get made.”

To which I say, “Bravo, Senator Gould.”

Though I’ve flayed him in print for his ongoing effort to undermine the birthright citizenship provision of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, he went further in his comments than even the local ACLU.

Granted, when I contacted the ACLU of Arizona’s executive director, Alessandra Soler Meetz, she criticized the end run around the rules.

“Anytime members of the Arizona Legislature fast-track a bill to circumvent public debate, it’s problematic and undemocratic,” she told me. But as to the new law, she observed that the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals had declared a similar Ohio law constitutional, because it regulated the time, place, and manner of the protest, not the content involved. “Unequivocally, we believe [Fred] Phelps has a First Amendment right to protest,” she stated. “The Constitution protects even the most hateful, offensive speech that most people find unacceptable. This bill will not prevent protesters from expressing their views, regardless of how disgusting or hateful the speech is.” Oddly, however, the ACLU of Ohio sided with Westboro Baptist Church’s challenge to the Ohio law in the 6th Circuit. Meetz noted that ACLU legal beagles “have not been asked to challenge the [Arizona] law,” but that they “plan to do more research,” if asked. Not to bore you with all the legal rigmarole, but it’s worth observing that the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals granted a preliminary injunction in 2007 against the enforcement of a Missouri law designed to curtail WBC. A cemetery or a religious institution is a nonpublic forum; what’s at issue is what can happen on the public venues outside such places. The 8th Circuit did not rule on the constitutionality of the measure, but it held that WBC would surely prevail in its challenge, and that the “balance of equities . . . generally favors the constitutionally protected freedom of expression.”

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a case involving WBC. This involves a lawsuit against the church, which it won on appeal. However, the Supremes are expected to address some of the underlying First Amendment issues involved.

What’s the big deal in restricting the rights of religious insane-iacs to wave hateful placards and possibly upset mourners?

Well, there is the very valid argument that such restrictions can be turned against us at some point.

The day before the Tucson massacre, the human rights group Puente protested outside a private residence in Paradise Valley, where scores of lobbyists gathered to contribute upwards of $250 a pop to their new lord and master, state Senate President Pearce.

Lobbyists had to walk a gauntlet of protesters, some of whom compared them to Nazis — no doubt partly because Pearce used to be very friendly with local neo-Nazi J.T. Ready (“The Company He Kept,” December 16). Perhaps it was unfair to the lobbyists, though I don’t bemoan that they were given grief as they rushed to kiss Pearce’s hand.

Yeah, there was no funeral going on inside (unless it was a funeral for clean government), but the situation is similar enough. Even if this particular law would not apply, one mimicking it for private fundraising events could, with Pearce in charge, be drafted and passed. And in the paranoia in the aftermath of Congresswoman Gifford’s shooting, it’s hardly inconceivable that such a statute could be enacted.

After all, congressmen from both sides of the aisle have proposed national legislation in the wake of Jared Loughner’s rampage that would curtail constitutional rights, from a 1,000-foot no-gun circle around all government officials to banning “symbolic” threats, such as the crosshairs Sarah Palin famously used in relation to the politicos she was targeting.

Both ideas are dumb, for obvious reasons.

I can already hear the gun nuts screeching that I’m a hypocrite for criticizing the anti-WBC law, while at the same time, backing sensible restrictions on the sale of firearms in the hopes of throwing a few speed bumps in the path of the next Loughner-like lunatic (“Arizona’s Lax Gun Laws,” January 13).

But here’s the difference: The activities of Westboro Baptist Church have never slain anyone, while firearms and their owners are responsible for thousands of deaths in the United States every year.

Using the latest data available, the Centers for Disease Control recorded 31,224 firearm-related mortalities for the nation in 2007. The FBI’s crime stats for 2009 show that firearms were the weapon of choice in 67 percent of all murders in this country.

Upsetting people is one thing. That’s what fruitcakes like WBC members do. Whereas straitjacket-types with unlimited and unrestricted access to guns and ammo can cause the very funeral that WBC might protest.

Which deserves more severe limitations? The guns, the bullets. Not the words.

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45 comments
Semellyecoli2
Semellyecoli2

More holier than thou Jesus freak garbage !!

Sr71
Sr71

A second comment. This newspaper is ten times better than either of our major newspapers in Tucson.--Peter (Tucson resident)

Sr71skunkwrksbrd
Sr71skunkwrksbrd

I agree they should not curtail freedom of speech in this area. As to putting restrictions on guns, it would behoove America well to make abortion illegal first. Abortion in the U. S. kills over one million humans a year, as opposed to 31,224 firearms related deaths. It may be said, "Abortion has nothing to do with this." This is incorrect however, because if we are trying to curtail that which causes the greatest harm then we ought to focus on abortion which causes by far, many more deaths. The victims of these deaths are humans in their most innocent and helpless stage.--Sincerely, Peter

Tad
Tad

"As such sentiments prove, WBC is so out there, so beyond the pale, that the church is little more than a cartoonish freak show. To be laughed at, not feared." Kind of like the New Phoenix Times

roadscholar
roadscholar

My they must be short on interesting news to print this garbage. First, this isn't the time to be passing any gun legislation, nor with a republican state government hell bent of giving guns to everyone without background checks is it likely to happen any time.

If you want a real news story, print something about how it takes 3 years to bring a murderer to court and then have the prosecution declare they've lost the evidence and file for a motion to dismiss without any consideration of the eye witnesses who saw the murder take place 20 feet in front of them.

Or write an article about how certain banks are manipulating the foreclosure system to make themselves look good on paper (and hence earn themselves big bonuses) while at the same time defrauding the tax payers and their stock holders.

Or write an article about how restaurants across the valley are underpaying their staff and then lying about their salaries to the taxman. Then add in how the restaurants are stealing their tips with the attitude "if you don't like it, go find another job".

Or write a story about the police force in South Mountain who take three hours to show up to a traffic accident and then do nothing because the other driver was a hit and run (and the witnesses evaporated during the three hour wait).

Or write an article about how home owners, too lazy to go after the foreclosing banks for fees, instead turn on the remaining residents and jack the HOA fees sky high.

Yup. All of the above stories would take serious investigative journalism, and that is a commodity in short supply these days.

Steve
Steve

This story is ridiculous. I should have known it ran in the New Times. Lemons' effort at being "uber" cool fell absolutely flat. He actually called Loughner a "goofball?" Really? I think Lemons better get out a dictionary.

George Mead
George Mead

Let's look at the opposite side of the coin: the need to protect the rights of the bereaved mourners to hold a private funeral without being harassed, harangued, imposed upon, or otherwise vilified by unwelcome intruders. Who is protecting the rights of the bereaved? It should be illegal to engage in any of these actions designed to disturb or intrude upon a funeral...

StephenLemons
StephenLemons

No, not crazy about "free speech zones" either, particularly when the "zone" in question is so far from the event that those attending don't see it.

Gater
Gater

Amazing, once again Stephen Lemons has pushed the his version of Freedom of Speech to a razor thin edge, I has to make you wonder if he is a card carrying member of the ACLU and regularly attends meetings with the WBC. Nuff said, if the shoe fits...

The
The

do you actually get paid to write "articles"

Please try to write one that is non-biased and without any commentary.

Cajungman
Cajungman

uncle russel at his best that what we get for electing a peckerwood like that but arizona does take the cake.

ZEEK
ZEEK

how come nobody ever beats the living bloody snot out of these guys with ball bats and axe handles when they show up? where is a patriotic mean ass violent redneck American gang banger when you really need one i ask? people now days are all talk and no action pussies.

Guest
Guest

> "A cemetery or a religious institution is a nonpublic forum; what’s at issue is what can happen on the public venues outside such places"

FAIL.

You don't understand, or did not properly address, that with time, place and manner regulations it isn't a private-forum versus all other space issue. You have to examine whether the regulated space is a public forum, and no, it's not a binary issue. Just because a space isn't private, does not make it a public, or open, forum.

Indeed, that may be an avenue to attack the law. Specifically, it may be over-broad. By creating this statewide buffer zone, there may be places where the statute creates an impermissible limit to speech in traditional public forums.

The issue is what is impermissible, another issue you completely failed upon.

If you're going to go through the trouble of talking with an attorney, take time to pay attention to the response.

I know, you think I'm quibbling. Details, details ...

Tyrantsparky
Tyrantsparky

Actually, Jews did kill Jesus. The Romans only nailed him up there. It was necessary so I am tired of Christians crying over this. It was part of the plan, as was Judas. Other than that, great article.

Phonse
Phonse

The CDC states that in 2007, firearms killed 31,000+ persons in the U.S.! The statement is true, however, the number includes hunting accidents, police shootings of criminals, and the thousands of occaisons when honest citizens, in fear for their lives, or the lives of their family members, who were forced to use lethal force against a criminal threat. Also included are the shooting that occured when shopowners were face with armed robbers.

The most interesting FBI findings regarding firearms is that each year approximately 1.5 million deaths are prevented by the mere display or presence of a firearm in the hands of a potential crime victim. An armed society is truly a polite society. In all states where firearms permits are issued, violent crime rates have fallen. That is in 48 states!

When citizens are denied access to firearms, criminals, with guns, become more bold. When, as in AZ, the majority of honest citizens are armed, criminals become leary of risking an armed confrontation. Pure logic.

Karmashand35
Karmashand35

While I agree that those wackos have the same rights as the rest of us to speak their minds; I have to say: TIME AND PLACE, PEOPLE. The old adage about yelling fire in a crowded theatre comes to mind. Do I have a perfect solution? Probably not because mine would involve allowing the grieving family to take out one the five stages of grief on the WBC people (anger). I don't know that I wouldn't bitch slap one of them myself if I met them. Ignorant people are hard to deal with. And those that don't consider that their "protest" is violating the freedoms of those grieving are more than ignorant. We have individual freedoms to do as we like as long as it doesn't take away or violate someone else's freedom, get it?

Bigdpw
Bigdpw

Wow your a lier and a Liberal Troll. I was at the Capitol yesterday and had to pass through metal detectors. It's funny how you won't discuss the FACT that Arizona has lower gun crime than states that have strict gun laws. If laughner didn't have a gun he would probably throw a gas bomb on them. Would that make you feel beter watching a 9 year old burn to death? As far as budget cuts go, your Democrat buddies like Napolitano over spent and now we have to deal with it. Loughners Parents have the best private medical care in the country available to them for practically nothing and it didn't do any good. So why would Government run Mental care help?

Melon Man
Melon Man

So let me see if I've got this right.

You want to protect the tiny minority of moron loudmouths like the Westboro Baptist Church by saying there should be no funeral protest zone yet you want to stop on the rights of a much larger group of gun owners?

Bi-polar much?

Oh, you're another one of those freedom on my terms types. Typical.

PUTZ
PUTZ

They didn't "punk" out and no show. They had their tires slashed on their vans in a small town in KS & all the tire shops there refused to sell them any new tires, LOL.

Rich
Rich

All media is sensationalism and New Times is by far no exception. They complain about the "right" having opinions yet no complaints about the left having opinions because that's who they support. The point is...I don't trust any media and prefer to come to my own conclusion because I still have a mind and ability to view both sides of an issue.

This time, they hit the nail on the head and the problems with our government. Feel good legislation makes the sheep happy. New Times is absolutely correct...the right can't have their constitutional arguments when it makes them look good. Rather than impede the constitutional right to free speech (regardless of how horrendous it is in the situations of this "church"), they should have done something for mental health. Gun legislation? Get a life. The gun didn't kill and access to the gun didn't contribute. A gun can be gotten regardless by anyone with a will to kill by virtue of using a gun. That gun didn't kill those people anymore than McDonald's made your precious lazy brat fat. Mental illness run rampant due to a lack of services contributed to the problem.

WBC Sucks
WBC Sucks

I'm all for free speech, and don't like what WBC has to say, but I respect their right to say it.

That being said - these guys are wackos. Total and utter looney toons. This seems to be something most people in the country can agree on. WBC Sucks. Why then can't the media just ignore them? Why grant them space - whether virtual or on paper - at all? Maybe if we ignore them, they will go away. Right now, all the media is doing is rewarding their bad behavior.

Docbob498th
Docbob498th

Expect the regressive right to do otherwise?

Vlbruzzi
Vlbruzzi

These wbs people are some sick f--k. Since when does GOD need a bunch of even sicker f--ks to do his work they really need to go back and read there Bible,I guess reading the part that says thou shall not commit MURDER was passed over, the facts are this GOD can not nor will not be part of sin.when it comes to that day of judgement and it will we will be judged as one body the whole country just the same way that's been done since the dawn of time. I wonder what they will say in their last breath if someone was to open up on them with a Mac10 would they say God sent the shooter or would they say that they where some sick f--k that just out for a good time. Instead of mucking people for their lose,why don't they try praying that GOD gives them the strength they need to get through this time of lose.

Dnabgeek
Dnabgeek

You have no idea how devastating a protest at a funeral can be to a grieving family. They are not stopping the protests - just giving a grieving family some room so they don't have it in their face.

And why didn't they touch the gun laws in Arizona? If you look at the state constitution you'd have a clue...

Gene Bivins
Gene Bivins

Counter-protestors can easily block the WBC wackos; this law must be reversed.

bobpomeroy
bobpomeroy

Of course, that's all they ever do -- something to let them assure themselves they have the public's interests at heart. I can them just gloating in their accomplishment. They sure aren't going to come up with responsible tax rates or fund mental health services.

Tommy Collins
Tommy Collins

Interesting perspective, Mr. Lemons. (Sampson, that's your cue for some snarky comment)

I thought it was highly unusual for our legislators to take such expedient and unanimous action, having thrown out all the rules put into place to avoid such action.

From the emotional perspective I completely agreed with the action. If it's challenged, however, I don't expect it to sustain a challenge.

Jmmailin
Jmmailin

Kyrsten Sinema decided she'd actually like to get a few things accomplished in the Republican dominated legislature rather than stand around waving the bloody shirt as symbolic wailing widow of the chronically disaffected. Reasonable time and place restrictions are not the death of free speech - though I'd favor civil consequences over prohibition of prospective action.

Mistalee
Mistalee

I am saddened to hear about Rep. Synema.

She used to be one hell of an organizer, But these days she seems to be living proof that if you opt to work for change within the system, the system will change you, instead.

Mistalee
Mistalee

The Bill of Rights makes the USA a free speech zone.

StephenLemons
StephenLemons

Not a member of the ACLU, though I'd be proud to be one.

StephenLemons
StephenLemons

It's an opinion column, The. Sorry, them's the breaks.

Jim
Jim

zeek, i agree with you. its just more proof of the pussafacation of the American citizen.

Kit Carson
Kit Carson

No, the Jews did not kill Jesus. He was killed under Roman law by Roman soldiers. The "Jews," or rather a crowd of Jews (perhaps the WBC of their time) choose another to be set free. That did not mandate that Jesus be killed. It was not the order of the crowd that Jesus be killed; rather, it was that another be saved.

Otherwise, great post.

Crazed Country Rebel
Crazed Country Rebel

nailing a guy to a piece of wood then killing him. humans are such a kind, decent and loving race of people aren't they?

Guest
Guest

Seems the FBI stat is just another internet urban legend.

There was a private phone survey, but its methods were not up to accepted standards, leading to a predictable and biased response. Says who, you ask - the people who designed and reported the survey.

Specifically, they wrote:

"Evidence suggests that this survey and otherslike it overestimate the frequency with whichfirearms were used by private citizens to defendagainst criminal attack."

See http://www.ncjrs.gov/txtfiles/...

The next question to ask is "why did someone claim it was the FBI that said 1.5MM lives were saved?" Answer: because that person, that first one to tell the lie that others have repeated, thought it would sound better if the FBI had said (which it didn't) rather than some academics who admitted their own errors.

As I've asked before, how can you trust the source that lied to you about the FBI to tell you true on issues such as Obama's citizenship, middle-class taxes, death panels and healthcare, much less gun regulation?

Guest
Guest

Do you have a cite for any of this?

How many self-defense shootings were there?

How many lives saved?

Seriously, just a citation where I can read this myself.

Guest
Guest

> "t's funny how you won't discuss the FACT that Arizona has lower gun crime than states that have strict gun laws."

California has stricter gun control than Arizona.

For the past 12 years CA has had a lower homicide rate when compared to AZ.

See, http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.or...

StephenLemons
StephenLemons

If they're doing that now, it's brand new. But I will run by the legislature to check on your statement.

Uncle Jeb
Uncle Jeb

to bad some body didnt slice their throats to.

Karmashand35
Karmashand35

Is that really true? If so, good for whoever did that!! LOL

Jmmailin
Jmmailin

Similar Ohio law has already withstood challenge in Federal Court as "a reasonable time & place restriction".

StephenLemons
StephenLemons

Just got back from the state Capitol. I walked into both the Senate and the House and wandered up to the galleries in each. Nobody stopped me. And there are still no metal detectors. One of the guards at the House gallery was playing solitaire on a laptop. I asked him about it. He said he'd been working at the legislature for 10 years, and the security they had on opening day -- with the "wanding" of visitors being done at the state House where the Governor spoke -- was the first time he'd seen it done in his decade there.

Needless to say, there was no "wanding" of visitors today.

Now, there are metal detectors at the Executive Tower, where the Governor has her offices, but there are none at either house of the Arizona legislature.

 
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