It's Open Season On "Liberal Hippies"

Editorial written by James Baughn on Tuesday, December 12, 2000

from the no-bag-limit dept.

JEFFERSON CITY -- Last week a state representative pre-filed a bill for next session that would allow people to use physical force to prevent the desecration of the American flag. The sponsor, Rep. Sam Gaskill (R-Washburn), argues that the flag "deserves more respect than the protest message of some liberal hippie".

Excuse me, but what? It's not like Missouri is loaded with "liberal hippies". You might find some on the campuses of state colleges, but otherwise they all fled to the Left Coast years ago.

Just how many flag burnings have occured in Missouri during the last decade? Just how many "liberal hippies" have staged full-scale protests in this state? Just what purpose does this proposed bill serve?

What Rep. Gaskill proposes is part of a never-ending stream of "perennial legislation", asinine bills that never make it anywhere in the Legislature, but are sponsored year after year by stubborn representatives who refuse to give up in the face of overwhelming opposition.

These pieces of perennial legislation, at best, serve little or no purpose, and, at worse, represent flagrant violations of individual rights.

If Rep. Gaskill is so interesting in protecting the flag, maybe he should consider why people might consider burning it in the first place (assuming such a thing actually happens in Missouri). If the government wants citizens to respect it, maybe it should set a better example.

For one thing, the series of "zero tolerance, zero sense" bills that keep reappearing in the General Assembly must come to a halt. One perennial bill, for example, would criminalize virtually any school student who even dared of coming with 5,000 feet of a pack of cigarettes. This is absurd.

The worst part, though, is that Gaskill's anti-flag-desecration bill is clearly unconstitutional. The US Supreme Court has affirmed that flag burning is a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment. I seriously doubt the courts would give a warm welcome to this pro-violence, anti-hippie piece of legislation.

Such blatantly unconstitutional pieces of legislation should never appear in the first place. All elected officials, before taking office, should be required to take "First Amendment Sensitivity Training" to knock some respect for individual rights into their skulls.

Heck, if the legislature wants to pass a bunch of hair-brained bills, let me propose this one: it should be an impeachable offense for an elected official to sponsor a bill that is later ruled by the courts as a violation of the US Constitution.

Maybe that would restore some sanity to the Legislature and put a permanent stop to the flow of perennial legislation that has inundated this state. Let's declare open season on bad bills.

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