Since he first kicked off his campaign, President Trump has received a lot of attention after repeatedly proposing unnecessary regulations on the media. Now, a Republican from Indiana has tried to one-up the president by introducing a bill that would require journalists to be licensed by state police.
Rep. Jim Lucas drafted the bill earlier this year and told The Indianapolis Star on Thursday that he wants to file it to make a point about gun rights.
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‘If you’re OK licensing my Second Amendment right, what’s wrong with licensing your First Amendment right?
‘If I was as irresponsible with my handgun as the media has been with their keyboard, I’d probably be in jail.’
Lucas’ proposal would require journalists to submit an application to the Indiana State Police. They would then be fingerprinted and would have to pay a $75 fee for a lifetime license. The law would also prohibit those with a felony or domestic battery conviction from getting a license.
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The proposal is almost identical to an Indiana law that requires a license to carry a handgun, a law that Lucas has been trying to repeal for years.
During the interview, Lucas also bragged that he’s “a year ahead of President Trump” when it comes to attempting to regulate the media.
Free press advocates have heavily criticized Lucas’ proposal.
Andrew Seaman, ethics committee chairman for the Society of Professional Journalists, called it an “attention-grabbing stunt” and pointed out that there are already several restrictions on the First Amendment.
‘Every so often legislators try to introduce these types of bills as attention-grabbing stunts. The truth is that there are already a number of restrictions on the First Amendment. We have libel laws, copyright laws and countless others that rein in the speech and press rights under the First Amendment.’
Gregg Leslie, legal defense director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Washington, D.C., also commented on the potential negative effects of a law like the one Lucas has proposed:
‘The obvious problem is that it means the government gets to decide who gets to practice journalism.
‘This seems to have become a political issue, but freedom of speech really isn’t a political issue. When you undermine the press, you’re ultimately preventing people from becoming informed.’
Steve Key of the Hoosier State Press Association chimed in as well and called the proposal “a clever way to make an argument.” However, he said that it also poses a threat if it’s taken seriously.
‘There is a danger in that if you continue to undermine the institutions and the balances of these institutions that have worked so well for us over the past 200 years, there can be damage that can be difficult to repair.’
‘I hope he’s not serious in his approach that if I’m mad at you, I’m going to file something to hurt you. I hope that’s not his real intent. That’s not how the General Assembly is supposed to work.’