Dick Heller was the plaintiff in the landmark 2008 case, District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes.
On May 16, Heller attended an event at Boise State University to discuss his case, the Second Amendment, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The event was organized by the Boise State University chapter of Young Americans for Liberty.
Attendees to the event were surprised to find that there was a heavy security presence at the event, comprised of both BSU security and Boise police officers. According to reports, this show of force was intended to make sure that nobody “open carried” at the event.
For those who are not familiar with the term, “open carry” is the practice of carrying a firearm in a manner that is openly visible to the public. It is also a protected practice pursuant to Article I, Section 11 of the Idaho Constitution.
Even setting aside the open carry issue, particularly troubling are the reports that the university informed the organizers of the event that they would have to pay approximately $465 for the additional police and security. If this is indeed the case, by mandating that Young Americans for Liberty pay for the extra security presence, the university is essentially charging the group a premium for engaging in speech that the university deems controversial and that might engender in the attendees a reaction with which the university disagrees.
The Supreme Court, however, has long held that a government actor such as the university may not affix a price tag to an organization’s speech simply because of the expressive content contained in that speech. Applying burdens or limitations on speech that are not content neutral is a violation of the First Amendment because such burdens can have a chilling effect on protected speech.
Particularly on a college campus, where the free exchange of ideas is absolutely essential to the intellectual growth of the students and the development of critical thinking skills, it is highly disappointing to see the First Amendment given so little respect.
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