OPINION: Do journalists need to be licensed?

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OPINION: Do journalists need to be licensed?

Trevor Tyle, Staff Reporter

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Last week, Indiana lawmaker Jim Lucas drafted a bill that would require journalists to be licensed in order to make a point about his stance against gun control.

The bill would require journalists to apply for a license through the state, be fingerprinted and pay a $75 lifetime fee. Although the bill has not officially been proposed, the idea has already angered many journalists who feel their First Amendment rights are being violated—and rightfully so.

“If I was as irresponsible with my handgun as the media has been with their keyboard, I’d probably be in jail,” Lucas said, according to Forbes. “If one constitutional right is OK to license, then they all are.”

The fact of the matter, though, is that handguns and keyboards are not equal. Just ask those who survived the shooting in Las Vegas a few weeks ago. The lethality of journalists lies in their duty to tell the truth, while a handgun can take a life with one swift pull of a trigger.

It’s a weak comparison on Lucas’ part. While the right to bear arms is constitutionally guaranteed just as much as freedoms of speech and press are, the former is a matter of safety.

Such a bill would also increase the difficulties of being a journalist in a country whose leader considers us “the enemy of the American people.” Since Lucas suggested the bill, it has been interpreted by many as an attempt to combat “fake news.” However, its significance extends beyond this. This isn’t a democrat/republican issue, but rather a people issue.

I’m not suggesting that journalists’ credibility shouldn’t be verified. Considering I’m paying for a journalism education and degree, I would appreciate having something that distinguishes my credentials from those of, say, a high school dropout operating a blog in their mom’s basement.

What I am suggesting, however, is that it is unfair to impose such a bill on professional journalists solely to prove a point, particularly given that this standpoint is not only flawed but dangerous to the American people. The Las Vegas shooting left 58 people dead and 489 more injured. But don’t worry—stopping journalists, the ones who informed the public of such a tragedy, will surely resolve this issue.

So, yes, Mr. Lucas, the Constitution does allow us to own a gun. However, this does not, in any way, mean that we as journalists should be licensed—not yet, anyway. In fact, I think most of us would agree that our founding fathers did not intend for the Second Amendment to justify our killing each other out of ignorance. Honest reporting is a far cry from unjustifiable homicide.

You can accuse journalists of many things, Mr. Lucas, but even when we use our words as weapons, they’re not quite as fatal.