Just after the Giffords shooting, Travis Corcoran, who I link from time to time for his biting commentary, posted something along the lines of "one down, 534 to go." I didn't like the comment, but it was not wildly different from his quasi-revolutionary rhetoric he often uses when describing the fraud and outright criminality of public officials. In the context of his body of work, I did not find it either surprising or particularly troubling, and certainly did not take it as a call to action or overt threat. I merely thought it in poor taste.
The comment went viral, and many others trashed him on blogs and in his comments -- these folks found the comment to be much worse than just poor taste. Their response was exactly what one does in a free society in reaction to speech we don't like -- we use speech in response. Travis strikes me as a big boy who was able to handle the consequences of his speech. Unlike many more cowardly sites, Travis did not re-edit the post to whitewash it or secretly eliminate it.
However, some folks were apparently not happy with just responding with speech. Typical of modern discourse, certain folks wanted to win their argument by bringing the coercive power of the state in on their side. Apparently, Massachusetts gun laws allow for revocation of firearms permits under certain vague circumstances (which are conveniently flexible for the state). Travis had agents of the state (or local?) government show up at his door and confiscate his firearms. Now, presumably there is a legal ruckus going on (TJIC is not one to take such things passively) and his site is down (presumably under advice of attorneys).
This strikes me as way over the line. The implied threat does not meet any of the well-worn court judicial tests for speech that can be actionable as a threat. I don't know enough law, and have not really studied the statute in question, to know whether this particular gun licensing law is able to establish a broader definition of threat (I am not sure it even has been tested in court).
But I am certain about one thing, because the statement I am about to make applies to just about every government law with vague terminology that leaves enormous room for selective interpretation and enforcement: There is probably no way the state of Massachusetts or the city of Arlington can argue that this effective restriction on speech is being enforced in a viewpoint neutral way. I bet I could find a whole boatload of radical leftish academics with firearms who have made far more specific threats and never have, and would never have, such restrictions enforced against them.
Update: Apparently there are threats of other legal actions. I have just no time to blog right now, but Radley Balko has what seems to be a fair take and a lot more information.