Photo courtesy of C. Presutti / Wikimedia

Counter-Protesters for Their First and Second

During Boston’s March for Our Lives protest, a second march gathered to make their voices heard. Counter-protesters from Resist Marxism advocated for their Second Amendment rights as they trooped from the steps of the State House to the Boston Common. Members asserted that restrictive gun-control laws in America would lead to a greater loss of personal freedom. Policemen eventually escorted the counter-protesters off the Common, with no arrests made.

The First Amendment protects the right of counter-protesters to appear at rallies. Americans do not just have the right to “non-offensive speech.” While controversial topics often test our commitment to the First Amendment, it is for these topics that we need free speech the most.

However, there are always limits. The First Amendment does not protect statements that are false, either negligently or intentionally so. In the case of the counter-protesters on Boston Common, they came woefully misinformed on the issue at hand, hindering efforts to protect lives. Therefore, I believe they should not be supported or encouraged by the First Amendment.

It comes as no surprise that people argue for the use of guns as self-defense, given the cultural circumstances that surrounded the writing of the Second Amendment. America is the country with the most guns owned per person, a tradition easily linked with the country's origins. Unfortunately, America also has the most public mass shooters. If those two facts seem connected, that’s because they are. The U.S. makes up 5% of the world’s population but encompasses 31% of the total mass shooters. The fact that one country contains nearly a third of the world’s mass shooters is staggering. It is also a direct result of outdated gun-control laws.

Disagreement over concrete facts during debates surrounding any polarizing issue has become a common phenomenon in the era of fake news. Gun-control is no different.

“March for Our Lives has a lot of money behind them; they have a lot of politicians behind them,” said Mark Sahady, a member of Resist Marxism. He continued by maintaining that students involved in the march were “being used as pawns by the media and the political class.” Another counter-protester, Bill Bachant, argued that their group fights to preserve an individual's rights to defend themselves and their families. He contended that guns in the hands of Americans would lead to prevention of mass shootings.

Claims have risen that wide-scale mass shootings are not unique to America, and that stricter gun-control laws are not necessary. This is a willful delusion, and the truth is getting harder to hide. 2017 was the deadliest year for mass shootings in modern U.S. history, with 345 mass shootings over the course of 365 days, two of which were among the most deadly ever recorded. People voiced hopes that in 2018 America could turn a corner, but the opposite has proved true. 12 weeks into 2018, there have been 17 school shootings where someone was hurt or killed, which averages to 1.4 shootings a week.

Despite contrary beliefs, the majority of Americans support universal background checks. In states where these measures have been implemented, they have proven effective. As a byproduct of America’s two-party system, Republicans are motivated to resist gun-control measures, since they receive massive amounts of funding from the NRA. Taken together, these facts stand in direct opposition to the claims from Resist Marxism.

When half of the argument comes misinformed, we lose the possibility of meaningful, productive debate. Despite Resist Marxism’s claims, gun reform advocates for greater background checks, not the universal prohibition of firearms. The protesters from Resist Marxism exercised their right to advocate for what they saw as protecting their civil liberties. However, when listening to their insults, protesters and self-dubbed peacekeepers alike came to the conclusion that the counter-protesters were both misinformed and hoping to induce conflict.

Despite being born New Jersey, I’m kind of a big deal. Thankful for the meaningful things in my life, like Sufjan Steven lyrics and pasta.