The First Amendment and Online Gun-Related Content

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Following the 2011 attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, there was much talk of numbers. The shooter used a Glock 23 handgun to fire off 33 rounds in 15 to 20 seconds, before pausing to reload. The public and legislative focus of some post-shooting discussions shifted to banning magazines that could hold large amounts of ammunition. Some gun owners responded to this talk by posting YouTube videos of themselves firing the same number of rounds in the same timeframe as the Giffords shooting, using smaller-capacity magazines. Their point was that banning large magazines wouldn’t have the desired impact of completely preventing future shooting attacks. Even before any gun control legislation might have been passed, it was being undercut by gun owners exercising what they view as their First Amendment right to free speech.