Oregon Magazine

"Un" Fairness Doctrine Threatens 1st & 2nd Amendment Rights  By Larry Pratt, Executive Director, Gun Owners of America 

Even while we are busy defending our Second Amendment rights against efforts to enhance the Brady Law, there is a movement afoot to restrict our First Amendment  rights as well a movement that can make the defense of our liberties that much  harder.

You may have heard of this effort as the "Hush Rush" bill or, just simply, as the Fairness Doctrine.  No matter how you look at it, however, there is nothing fair  about it.  

Better termed the UnFairness Doctrine, it would radically limit the type of
 information you hear in the media and would greatly restrict access by Gun Owners of  America to the airwaves.  

Access to talk radio has been crucial for GOA.  If we had to depend on network news  alone, one would think that crime is out of control.  Talk radio has given Second  Amendment supporters the opportunity to present the data that more guns in the hands of the public has actually lowered crime.

On June 28, the House of Representatives voted 309 to 115 for an amendment -- offered  by pro-gun Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) -- to defund enforcement of the unFairness  Doctrine.  This was a great victory.  But even though the amendment -- which was  added to a Federal Communication Commission appropriation (HR 2829) -- was a victory  for supporters of the First Amendment, it does not give lasting comfort to  supporters of free speech.

The vote on the appropriations amendment applies only to FCC actions in 2008.  Since  no one thinks that the Commission would move to reimpose the unFairness Doctrine until after 2008, what is needed is enactment of S. 1748, the Broadcaster Freedom Act which was introduced by Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN). 

The so-called Fairness Doctrine is openly touted as a way to squelch the conservative's  market-driven dominance of talk radio.  For example, Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma  reports overhearing a conversation between Senators Hilary Clinton (NY) and Barbara  Boxer (CA).  The two Senators were complaining about conservatives’ success in the free market of ideas on radio and said "We’ve got to have a balance.  There’s got to  be a legislative fix for this."

The UnFairness Doctrine is on its face an attack on free speech.  Were folks like  Senators Clinton and Boxer truly interested in balance, they would want to extend  their unFairness Doctrine to the Public Broadcasting System and the network news  programs, almost all of which tilt to the left.

The anti-free speech forces in Congress may want to gag talk radio because Air America  has staggered into bankruptcy.  Air America, which was the left’s failed attempt to  compete with conservative talk radio, has almost no audience.  It got its clock  cleaned and has only itself to blame.  It should not be allowed to hide behind a  phony "Fairness Doctrine."

Remember, the First Amendment protects free speech, not fairness.  Free speech is a  constitutional doctrine. Using the power of government to mandate political  "fairness" is a socialist doctrine.


Larry Pratt has been Executive Director of Gun Owners of America for 30 years.  GOA is  a national membership organization of 300,000 Americans dedicated to promoting their  second amendment freedom to keep and bear arms.

GOA lobbies for the pro-gun position in Washington and is involved in firearm issues  in the states.  GOA’s work includes providing legal assistance to those involved in  lawsuits with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the federal firearms law  enforcement agency.

Pratt has appeared on numerous national radio and TV programs such as NBC’s Today  Show, CBS’ Good Morning America, CNN’s Crossfire and Larry King Live, Fox’s Hannity & Colmes, MSNBC’s Phil Donahue and Dan Abrams show and many others.  He has debated  Congressmen James Traficant, Jr. (D-OH), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Vice President Al Gore, among others.  His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country.

He published a book, Armed People Victorious, in 1990 and was editor of a book,  Safeguarding Liberty: The Constitution & Militias, 1995.  His latest book, On the Firing Line: Essays in the Defense of Liberty was published in 2001.

Pratt has held elective office in the state legislature of Virginia, serving in the  House of Delegates.  Pratt directs a number of other public interest organizations and serves as the Vice-Chairman of the American Institute for Cancer Research.

© 2007 Larry Pratt