Trump's threats of restricting the free press are spreading through the Republican Party.
As Donald Trump despotically calls for punishing news media outlets that are critical of him and proclaims the free press “disgusting,” a lot of Republicans are embracing Trump’s rhetoric.
And some, like Indiana GOP state Rep. Jim Lucas, are using ever more bizarre arguments to put the First Amendment up for debate.
As a protest against the strictness of Indiana’s already-loose gun laws, Lucas introduced a bill in the state house to require journalists to submit to fingerprinting and get a $75 license from police before reporting news — the exact same process Indiana requires to obtain a handgun.
While introducing this bill, Lucas directly compared journalists who criticize Trump to people who use firearms recklessly or illegally, saying, “If I was as irresponsible with my handgun as the media has been with their keyboard, I’d probably be in jail.”
Lucas’s argument is ridiculous. Unlike the Second Amendment — which in its very first line presumes the states will guarantee gun owners are trained, disciplined, and fit for militia service — the First Amendment does not call for a “well-regulated media.”
But Lucas’s stunt is more than wrong, it is recklessly irresponsible. He appears to have forgotten that in January, Republicans in the Indiana Senate seriously did try to restrict the First Amendment right to assembly. A bill introduced by state Sen. Tim Jones would have required police to use “any means necessary” to disperse protests that obstruct road traffic — paving the way for brutal tactics against nonviolent protestors.
Lucas’s bill, in other words, may have been a trollish protest, but is really not much more extreme than real GOP proposals. And for that matter, it is a lot like Trump’s threats to have the FCC revoke broadcast licenses from news stations that offend him.
Lucas bragged he thought of it first.
“I’m a year ahead of President Trump on this,” he said, even though a Republican state lawmaker in South Carolina pulled almost the exact same stunt a year ago.
Republicans like Lucas are trying to have it both ways. They cannot act like authoritarians to try to prove a point about how much they value freedom.