Indiana Rep. Jim Lucas wasn’t elected to conduct experiments or congratulate himself when he thinks he’s made a point beyond his “wildest expectations.”
And yet, that — in his own words — is exactly what he did with a draft of a bill that would require a license for journalists to exercise their First Amendment rights in Indiana.
“I wanted to highlight the hypocrisy and double standard of the media demanding the licensing of one right while heatedly denying that other rights could be held to the same requirements,” Lucas recently wrote in a guest column that ran in this paper, among others.
In this case, the “other rights” Lucas refers to is the right to bear arms. In 2015 and again in 2016, he proposed a bill that would eliminate the requirement for Hoosiers to obtain a license to carry a firearm, characterizing the license as a barrier to a right that is enshrined by the Constitution.
The notion is a fair one. Whether state or federal governments should be able to license a constitutional right, or how far they should be able to regulate such rights, is a legitimate and important conversation in which to engage.
In past editions of this newspaper, local gun owners, law enforcement officials, community leaders and Lucas himself have had that conversation. Our reporting staff has interviewed people in favor of and those opposed to Lucas’ proposal to eliminate the requirement for a license to carry a gun.
But Lucas takes issue with how the press has covered the proposal. So he drafted another bill — this time targeting the First Amendment.
“Given the media’s continual irresponsibility in reporting what my bill does and does not do, while demanding the current gun rights licensing system remain in place, I conducted an experiment,” he wrote in his column.
At a time when the President of the United States is hostile toward the free press, Lucas’ little game is particularly divisive and worrisome. As a representative hired by the people of Indiana, Lucas decided to wield his great power and responsibility to play. And dangerous play it is, to treat the First Amendment like a toy.
Let us consider a different approach: Instead of teasing his constituents and mocking their free press with a frivolous stunt, how about standing just as tall for their First Amendment rights as he does for their Second Amendment rights? And if his response is that one amendment is under attack while the other isn’t, then he hasn’t been, well, reading the news.
It seems that when self-congratulatory exclamations are the endgame, reason goes out the window.
“As expected with the licensing of a Constitutional right, the draft is reprehensible, vile and repugnant. And, it is beautiful,” Lucas wrote.”The outcry has been epic and my point proven beyond my wildest expectations!”
Lucas did make a point — just not the one he intended to. Challenging one set of rights (and the constituents it protects) to show his unwavering support of another proved only this: His regard for both is lacking.
— The News and Tribune editorial board is comprised of Publisher Bill Hanson, Editor Susan Duncan, Assistant Editor Chris Morris, Assistant Editor Jason Thomas and Digital Editor Elizabeth DePompei.