While President Donald Trump is screaming for the “fake news” media to be held more accountable for their reporting, one Indiana Republican plans says he is already ahead of the game.
Representative Jim Lucas recently told the Indianapolis Star that he plans to introduce a bill in the upcoming session that would force professional journalists to obtain a license from the Indiana State Police before they could ever publish a single word.
Lucas, a longtime supporter of gun rights and medical marijuana advocate, says he drafted a piece of legislation earlier this year that would have journalists looking to exercise their First Amendment rights through the free press to go through a similar licensing process as those applying to carry a gun.
“If you’re OK licensing my Second Amendment right, what’s wrong with licensing your First Amendment right?” Rep. Lucas said. “If I was as irresponsible with my handgun as the media has been with their keyboard, I’d probably be in jail.”
At its core, the proposal is definitely something that Trump, a man fixated on the ethics of the American media, would like to see happen at the national level. It would require journalistic hopefuls to apply with the state police for a license, a process that would require fingerprinting and a background check. Like gun permits, any person with a felony conviction on his or her record would not be granted a license.
Advocates of the free press say the bill is ludicrous, with plenty of policies already in place to control how journalists are permitted to tell a story.
"Every so often legislators try to introduce these types of bills as attention-grabbing stunts," Andrew Seaman, ethics committee chairman for the Society of Professional Journalists, told the Indy Star. "The truth is that there are already a number of restrictions on the First Amendment. We have libel laws, copyright laws and countless others that rein in the speech and press rights under the First Amendment."
Of course, it is important to point out that Lucas’ journalist licensing bill has little to do with the media and everything to do with guns. The lawmaker, who is working to repeal the licensing requirement for gun owners, does not actually think his journalistic licenses will come to fruition.
“Everybody should be appalled,” Lucas told the Indy Channel. “I’m highlighting the licensing of a constitutional right. Society has become accustomed to that exact very thing. But if we allow the licensing of one constitutional right – even one – that means the floodgates are open for something like this to happen.”
With the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas less than two weeks old, Lucas is choosing to ignore the fact that guns quite literally kill people, while published journalism, obviously, does not.
After all, no matter how much fake news scrolls across your Facebook page, no seven year old left at home with the Sunday Post has ever died from an accidental paper cut.