Second Amendment activists across the country should pay close attention to the trial of a Des Moines Register reporter, scheduled to begin Monday, not so much because of the charges, but because of something the newspaper’s executive editor reportedly said that is important about rights.
At the time of her arrest, reporter Andrea Sahouri was covering a protest and clash between demonstrators and police last May 31 at a mall. She had left her press credentials in her car, according to published reports. She was following the protest when she was pepper sprayed and arrested, and faces charges of failure to disperse and “interference with official acts,” according to a report in her newspaper.
But the newspaper stands firm behind its 25-year-old journalist, and Executive Editor Carol Hunter called Sahouri’s lack of her press ID is a “red herring.” According to Fox News, Hunter maintains police knew immediately Sahouri was a working journalist, and—the story says—a press badge isn’t required to enjoy constitutional protections.
And this is where Second Amendment advocates would chime in, concurring with Hunter’s analysis. Working reporters should be no more required to flash a press badge to convince authorities they’re on the job than should gun owners be required to possess a license to carry a firearm. Sahouri was exercising her rights under the First Amendment. The gun owner is exercising his or her right to bear arms protected by the Second Amendment.
All rights being equal, gun advocates could easily argue, Sahouri’s case is a no-brainer and she should be acquitted. Maybe, as her supporters have argued, she should not have been prosecuted at all.
— Andrea May Sahouri (@andreamsahouri) June 1, 2020
Today, about 18 states have adopted what are generically called “Constitutional carry” statutes that allow law-abiding citizens to carry firearms openly or concealed without the necessity of a permit or license. That could be an important consideration in states such as Washington, where the application process for concealed pistol licenses as suspended by scores of issuing law enforcement agencies following the outbreak of COVID-19 last year. Those services were not available for several months, a scenario for which there is no provision in state law. While some agencies continued accepting new applications, others did not, which might weaken any defense of the shutdown, should there have been legal action.
Back in Des Moines, Sahouri had been covering protests for at least two days prior to her arrest. When she was arrested, according to published reports, she “repeatedly” identified herself as a reporter on the job. Register editors and attorneys demanded her release. Instead, authorities have reportedly been “aggressive” in this case.
In an editorial defending its reporter, the Des Moines Register observed, “Freedom of the press stands alongside freedom of religion, speech, assembly and petition as the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”
Likewise, the First Amendment stands next to the Second, which is supposed to protect the right of the people to keep and bear arms from infringement by the government. But gun rights activists know newspaper editorial boards all-too-frequently don’t defend that right as zealously as they defend the rights protected by the First.
Sahouri’s predicament is not unlike that experienced by gun owners who merely wish to exercise their rights protected by the same Constitution as the Register and its reporter are now using in their legal battle.
Rights are rights, and in the Second Amendment community, eyeballs roll whenever journalists doing their jobs fail to recognize the second tenet in the Bill of Rights as equal to the first.