The country is plagued by bad laws, but a good case can be made that the very worst laws are those that follow in the aftermath of a dramatic tragedy. The laws being proposed in the aftermath of the shooting of 20 people, six fatally, during an attempted assassination of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, certainly validate this insight.


Despite zero evidence that the shootings had any connection to Sarah Palin or the Tea Party, Rep. Robert Brady, D-Pa., is promising a bill to outlaw any speech or symbols that could be interpreted as threats to members of Congress, grousing that "You can't put bulls' eyes or crosshairs on a United States congressman." Not to be outdone, Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., wants us to "rethink the parameters of free speech," including installing "standards" to ensure "balanced media coverage."


Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., suggests the Federal Communications Commission "is not working anymore" and promises to look into ways to police (read: censor) the airwaves more effectively. She is especially upset at defeated Nevada Republican Sharron Angle's reference to "Second Amendment remedies," claiming there's a direct connection between that statement and the shooting in Tucson, though there's no evidence that shooting defendant Jared Lee Loughner knows who Sharron Angle is.


Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, even wants Republicans to change the name of the effort to repeal Obamacare from "Repeal the Job-Killing Healthcare Law Act," because, in light of Tucson, the word "killing" should not appear in the title of a piece of legislation.


It should be obvious that these efforts to control speech run afoul of the First Amendment, which begins with the unambiguous words "Congress shall make no law." But perhaps those words are offensive to distinguished members of Congress.


What might make sense in the wake of Tucson would be increased security for members of Congress, though most proposals to date consist of increasing budgets and having the Capitol Police accompany members on visits to their districts. It would make more sense for members to notify local police of events in their districts. Most have not done so because well, because until Saturday, town hall-style meetings haven't seemed to pose threats beyond a little shouting.