On Monday, the National Rifle Association (NRA) sued the city of San Francisco after the city declared the lobbying group a “domestic terrorist organization,” according to the Associated Press. The lawsuit accuses city officials of violating the NRA’s free speech rights for political reasons.
The resolution made by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors comes as a response to some high-profile shootings. Specifically one in Gilroy, California, where a gunman entered a festival with a semi-automatic weapon, killing three people and injuring 17 others before shooting himself. There have been many mass shootings following this incident.
The lawsuit asks the court “to instruct elected officials that freedom of speech means you cannot silence or punish those with whom you disagree.”
This sparked conversation about what freedom of speech truly means, and if and when it can be limited.
According to the United States Courts, freedom of speech includes the right not to speak, to use offensive words and phrases to convey political messages, to contribute money to political campaigns, and to engage in symbolic speech.
Freedom of speech does not include inciting actions that would harm others. It should stay this way. If we limit free speech, we limit the people’s ability to own ideas; whether or not we agree with them is another story.
Of course, just because you can say it doesn’t mean you are safe from any consequences that may follow.
There’s a bigger issue than people saying whatever they want, and it’s that no one is really listening. People often get so caught up in their own opinions that they forget everyone else also has the same right to be heard.
There are two sides to free speech. The first is, obviously, the ability to just speak. It is your right to say what you want to say when you want to say it–as long as it is not harming others.
The other side is our ability to listen to others whose opinions are not the same as our own. We literally can not be heard if no one is there to listen. A conversation does not only go one way.
Sitting and listening to opinions that are not like yours is a difficult thing to do, but it is essential that we do it. When we sit and listen–-and I mean really listen to people, then we can better understand where everyone is coming from. And maybe then our environments wouldn’t always be so hostile.
We need to get better at listening. When we do that, we can get better at practicing free speech to promote positive change in the things we do.