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The Littlest Sniper


A group of California gun humpers is suing to have a state law declared unconstitutional because it led to the removal of a blog post listing the home addresses and telephone numbers of state legislators who voted for six gun laws the group didn't like. They insist the law is an unconstitutional limitation on free speech and are suing the California Legislature's attorney for having suppressed their sacred right to tell angry people with guns where to go to find the people who want to take their guns away. We have to admit that as a kinda-sorta First Amendment absolutist, Yr Wonkette has mixed feelings about this. We're no fan of censorship or prior restraint, but we're also not too crazy about telling a bunch of heavily armed loons exactly where to find legislators they might want to target. For picketing and civil conversation, of course. Or to offer gardening help, like with watering the Tree of Liberty.

So here's the skinny, according to the San Francisco Chronicle:

Gov. Jerry Brown signed six gun-control bills on July 1 that had been passed by the Legislature, making it harder to buy ammunition and barring magazine clips that hold more than 10 rounds — measures that were designed to prevent mass shootings and curb violence in cities throughout California. Gun rights activists were infuriated.

On July 5, a blogger who goes by the alias “The Real Right Winger” wrote a post characterizing the legislators as “tyrants” and “legisexuals” for passing laws that the author criticized for thwarting the rights of gun owners. Among them is a law creating a registry to track ammunition sales throughout the state.

The blogger retaliated by posting a “tyrant registry” of 14 senators and 26 Assembly members who voted to approve the gun laws, saying the people listed could be removed in only two ways: by repealing the laws, or by dying.

“These tyrants are no longer going to be insulated from us,” said the blog post, which was reprinted in the court complaint filed Friday.

Well, by golly, that does sound rather like a threat, but since it offers a nonlethal way off the list, maybe it's just a friendly reminder that gun owners have long memories. Interestingly enough, the Real Right Winger specifically says there's no getting off the list by being voted out of office, so if a defeated legislator wanted to not be listed as a tyrant, their only options would be either death or getting reelected and then repealing the gun laws, we guess. Seems a bit convoluted, not that we really want to give writing tips to maniac gun fondlers.

California deputy legislative counsel Kathryn Londenberg wrote a letter to Wordpress demanding the removal of the legislators' home addresses from the blog post -- not the inflammatory language about the legislators being tyrants who must repeal or die to get off the list, or even their names.

“Publicly displaying elected officials’ home addresses on the Internet represents a grave risk to the safety of these elected officials,” Londenberg wrote, citing a state law that prohibits people from posting any official’s address or phone number on the Internet.

Total censorship, insisted the Firearms Policy Coalition. The specific provision the Firearms Policy Coalition is suing over is California Government Code section 6254.21(c), which states:

No person, business, or association shall publicly post or publicly display on the Internet the home address or telephone number of any elected or appointed official if that official has, either directly or through an agent designated under paragraph (3), made a written demand of that person, business, or association to not disclose his or her home address or telephone number.

The law goes on with details of how the notifications have to be given, which is why Londenberg sent the letter to Wordpress.

Like the original blog post, the response of the gun humpers isn't exactly free of hyperbole, either:

“Our member’s truthful, non-threatening speech was attacked mere days after the elected subjects of their speech carpet-bombed the Bill of Rights in the largest legislative attack on Second Amendment rights in decades,” Firearms Policy Coalition president Brandon Combs said in the statement.

Non-threatening, huh? From the complaint, here's the original post, titled "Tyrants to be registered with California gun owners":

Truthful and non-threatening? Huh. Well, it doesn't call for any specific action, so sure. Just compiling a list of Tyrants is all.

More to the point, the complaint cites Supreme Court decisions that have held the First Amendment protects the publication of "truthful, lawfully obtained information that is already in the public domain." The suit also notes that the blogger compiled the list using public records. Yr Wonkette is not a lawyer, but it sounds like the blog post -- however assholish -- is probably protected by the First Amendment, even if it looks a hell of a lot like an implied hit list. [Editrix here to offer her equally well-sourced and legally knowing disagreement that NUH UH.] Not to worry, though, since Mr. Combs insists that publishing legislators' home addresses and phone numbers "can serve a variety of lawful purposes," like picketing outside their houses. Or maybe even bringing them goodwill offerings, like a single bullet left on their doormat as a reminder of the Second Amendment and the freedom it ensures, or even hanging around and escorting their kids to school to make sure they're safe.

So is doxxing protected by the First Amendment? Probably, although harassment certainly isn't. In the spirit of the old dictum that the best response to offensive speech is more speech, we guess we'll have to settle for calling these guys a bunch of assholes and suggesting they shouldn't publish such a list, because it is wrong and bad.

There. Bet they knock it off now.

[SFGate.com / No Lawyers -- Only Guns And Money]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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