The “South Carolina Responsible Journalism Registry Law”, which state Rep. Michael Pitts (R) introduced on Tuesday, would “establish requirements for persons before working as a journalist for a media outlet and for media outlets before hiring a journalist,” while simultaneously mandating “the establishment and operation of a responsible journalism registry by the South Carolina Secretary of State’s office,” according to the bill’s official summary. Violations will be punished with “fines and criminal penalties.”
Although the full text of the bill is not yet available, Pitts described his bill to the Post and Courier as a deliberate effort to troll supporters of gun safety regulation. Pitts says his bill is modeled after a “concealed weapons permitting law.” He added that it “strikes me as ironic” that reporters questioned the constitutionality of the press registry bill when members of the press have “no problem demonizing firearms.”
In case there’s any doubt, there is no constitutional comparison between a law requiring a permit to carry a concealed weapon and a law imposing criminal sanctions on reporters who fail to comport with the state’s definition of “responsible journalism.” Reporters provide information about campaigns and policy development — what the Supreme Court deems “core political speech” — that enjoys the highest level of constitutional protection. By contrast, even the most conservative members of the Supreme Court acknowledge that, even in early American history, courts typically upheld outright prohibitions on concealed weapons. Indeed, Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller specifically listed “prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons” as a kind of law that would be permitted under the Second Amendment.
Also, guns are machines that exist primarily to inflict injury or death with a fast-moving projectile. Journalists, by contrast, provide voters with information they need in order to participate in a democracy.