Commentary

Editorials pan proposed law to “protect” officials from protesters

Sen. Dan Bishop

Sen. Dan Bishop

Not surprisingly, State Senator Dan Bishop’s absurd proposal to criminalize the act of yelling at politicians is running into widespread derision. Editorials in the Charlotte Observer and Wilson Times/Greenville Daily Reflector explain why.

Here’s the Times editorial as it was republished in the Reflector:

“Before the General Assembly’s return to Raleigh today, the first harebrained bill of the 2017 long session is already ricocheting around the state.

Sen. Dan Bishop, R-Mecklenburg, has floated legislation he says is necessary to protect public officials from hostile constituents after a group of demonstrators shouted down former Gov. Pat McCrory in the nation’s capital last week.

Bishop blathered about the bill to the press but didn’t provide a working title, so we’d like to suggest one: The Safe Spaces for Thin-Skinned Politicians Act of 2017….

The language is meant to criminalize what happened to McCrory, but as an attorney, Bishop should know the protesters neither assaulted nor approached the former governor and made no threats of violence. As for ‘retaliate,’ we can’t hazard a guess as to how he’d define it….

Bishop told the News & Observer that violating the proposed law would trigger a five-year prison sentence.

Communicating threats, stalking and simple assault are already illegal in North Carolina, and they all carry far less severe penalties. Why should identical crimes have a stiffer sentence if a politician is the victim? Does Bishop believe a cloistered class of elites deserves more protection than the men and women who elect them to office?

For his part, McCrory has not weighed in on the senator’s absurd proposal. He handled the incident with poise and class, offering a friendly wave to demonstrators as they chanted. It’s Bishop who’s taken umbrage.

If Bishop is too fragile to weather public criticism, perhaps he’s in the wrong line of work.”

And here’s the conclusion to the editorial in this morning’s Observer:

“Of course, Bishop is the same legislator/lawyer who wrongly claimed that Charlotte’s non-discrimination ordinance invited all men into women’s bathrooms. His frothing over the ordinance helped lead to HB2, a costly stain on the state. As we said last year, there’s no Mecklenburg legislator we can remember who has done more damage to Charlotte.

Now, Bishop wants to be the guardian of public officials past, present and future. We wish, of course, that he had the same concern for members of the LGBT community, who’ve faced very real discrimination and violence, not a few chants of ‘shame.’ We wish he had as much regard for the dignity of transgender individuals, who were stigmatized by the law he crafted.

In the end, we hope Bishop’s fellow lawmakers realize that speech, even uncomfortable speech, should be protected. You may not change many minds when you point your finger and yell at former N.C. governors. But you sure don’t accomplish anything by threatening people’s right to do so.”

‘Nuff said.

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