A Right Not To Be Offended?

I heard Dave Ross talking about gun violence victims that say they felt disrespected at a Washington State legislative hearing on I-594. The offense is about comments regarding if I-594 would have prevented several shootings, and some further comments about gender not being a major issue in gun control.

I am curious why people who live in a society with a First Amendment that guarantees free speech – even offensive speech – would complain about being offended by the expression of that right.

Why have Americans come to believe they have a right to not be offended?

I would think it is partly based on a morality argument. There are times when most people would agree that some offensive speech may also be immoral.  But I hold that the First Amendment does not guarantee the right to only moral speech, nor does it guarantee free speech only to those who use it with moral sensitivities.

I do agree with Dave that not allowing a witness to offer their opinion at a legislative hearing because “they were following a system” was wrong. But I do not believe the anti-gun participants really have a basis in “we are offended” – not in America.

We should apply moral conciseness to what we say, out of respect for others, but when we hear something offensive to us we must respect the other person’s right to voice that opinion. That is what makes this country great. 

As Penn Jillette (in rough language) puts it… “We are all offended by something.”