Gun rights group sues over state law banning use of Assembly videos

Gun rights group sues over state law banning use of Assembly videos

While the Assembly’s video feed through the California Channel is in the public domain, those seeking to use it are prohibited by law. (Photo: Sacramento Bee)

Second Amendment advocates are taking California officials into federal court arguing an obscure law preventing the use of videos taken during lawmaker debate violates the First Amendment.

In 1991, the legislature passed a law prohibiting the use of the public video feed from the California State Assembly for any political or commercial purpose. Those who do could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for each occurrence.

Two Emmy-award winning filmmakers, Kris Koenig and Stephen Chollet, want to use footage of the otherwise public debate between lawmakers in videos and political advertisements for the Firearms Policy Coalition but are unable to under fear of violating the law.

This led the group and the San Diego County Gun Owners PAC to enlist the help of Second Amendment luminary Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor and legal blogger to fight the ban in federal court.

In court documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California this week naming California Attorney Gen. Kamala Harris as defendant, Volokh noted that the law, which only affects Assembly videos, “imposes a substantial burden on Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights, and the threat of criminal sanctions has chilled and continues to chill protected speech,” and that since it “expressly criminalizes political speech in a content-and (sic) speaker-based way, it is ‘presumptively unconstitutional.'”

As such, the filing seeks a restraining order against the law as well as the costs of suit, including reasonable attorneys’ fees.

“Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Kevin de León are playing fast and loose with legislative rules, but California law says that it’s a crime for us to use Assembly video to oppose their extreme agenda,” Firearms Policy Coalition Second Amendment Defense Committee Chairman Brandon Combs said in a statement emailed to Guns.com.

“We filed this lawsuit because we’re not going to stand by and watch while Senator de León and Gavin Newsom compete to burn the Bill of Rights to the ground first,” said Combs.