Letters to the Editor: Re-thinking the 1st Amendment: Is it time for hate-speech laws?

El Paso protest
People protest President Trump’s visit to El Paso on Wednesday.
(Mario Tama / Getty Images)

To the editor: Here’s what you wrote in your editorial on white supremacy:

“The Constitution rightly requires the government to give free rein to political expression. That right to free speech is one of the nation’s most enduring freedoms, and embracing it means allowing speech that the vast majority of us find utterly repellent. We can’t, and shouldn’t, stifle such speech, be it from a soapbox or a site living in the darker recesses of the internet.”

When the framers drafted the 1st Amendment, they did not have instances where hate speech or expressions of support for white supremacy could lead to mass shootings. That was then, this is now. Times have changed.


Many Western democracies have laws outlawing hate speech or public statements denying the Holocaust. Shortly before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, a Canadian House of Commons members was nearly censured after she referred to people in the U.S. as “damn Americans.” The concern was that if Canadians could speak like that about us, it could have led to prejudice and possible even violence against Americans in Canada.

It is clear that any public expression of hate speech directed at specific groups of people could lead to domestic terrorism.

Andrew Gallagher, Costa Mesa


To the editor: America, we have a problem. It is young, principally white males who feel it appropriate to express their feelings using violent means against the “other.” This problem is not necessarily a new one in the United States. However, it has become more frequent.

If we are to solve this issue, we must work together. We must regain a sense of community. Respect, tolerance, sharing and love must be modeled as well as taught in our homes, neighborhoods and schools. The FBI should be encouraged to investigate groups espousing hate, whether they are white supremacists or avowed jihadists. A group constituting a part of the president’s base of supporters must not be exempt.

We also need to admit that no civilian “needs” an assault rifle.

How do we begin? Contact your representatives and demand that they act on gun violence. On a local level, stand up to those who espouse hate. On a personal level, reach out to someone unlike yourself. Smile, say hello and respectfully listen, even when you disagree. You may be surprised how much good you can do.


Mary Howe-Grant, Santa Barbara


To the editor: In labeling white nationalists as terrorists, are we planning for a future deal where they exchange their weapons for more political power, like the United States’ potential deal with the Taliban?

We must do more than calling white supremacy terrorism. We need toughness to speak out to change legal structures.

Where to start? How about with the 28th Amendment: “The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.”

Mark Fathi Massoud, Santa Cruz

The writer is director of legal studies and associate professor of politics at UC Santa Cruz.



To the editor: In listing examples of America’s history of white supremacy, you neglect to mention the genocide against American Indians. The state of California even offered rewards for Indian scalps and called for their eradication.

Lois Saffian, Los Angeles