California gun advocates win free-speech victory in court

A federal judge Monday issued an injunction against California officials in the case of a pro-gun blogger who published a “tyrant registry” of lawmakers who voted for gun control bills.

U.S. Chief District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill noted that the plaintiffs’ case against the state, based on First Amendment grounds, was likely to succeed and issued a preliminary order blocking enforcement of California’s 2005 law against posting the home address or phone numbers of elected officials without first obtaining their permission.

O’Neill noted the information posted in the blogger’s case was already public knowledge. “There is no dispute that Plaintiffs lawfully obtained and truthfully published information that was readily available online,” wrote O’Neill. “When lawfully obtained, the truthful publication of that information falls within the First Amendment.”

The blogger behind The Real Write Wringer — identified only in court documents as Doe Publius since they faced a $1,000 fine — last year filed suit against California Legislative Counsel Diane Boyer-Vine in her official capacity as defendant after a blog post containing the names, home addresses and phone numbers of selected lawmakers was pulled following pressure from the state.

When the list was brought to the attention of Boyer-Vine’s office, the public agency that provides legal services to the state legislature, they sent blog host WordPress an official letter citing state law against posting the home address or telephone number of any elected or appointed official online. To comply against threats of litigation from the state, WordPress removed the post with their database.

Officials also issued a takedown demand to Derek Hoskins, owner of the online firearms forum, as the site had mirrored the list of lawmakers’ information.

This led the blogger and Hoskins, with the support of the Firearms Policy Coalition, to file suit.

“We are delighted that Judge O’Neill saw the statute and the State’s enforcement of it for exactly what it was: an unconstitutional restriction on free speech,” said FPC President Brandon Combs in a statement. Combs added, “especially in times where some government officials are working to pass legislation that would criminalize law-abiding gun owners and eliminate Second Amendment rights, the First Amendment’s protection of law-abiding gun owners’ political speech and protest is more important than ever.”

O’Neill gave the parties until March 10 to file a report with the court on how they wish to proceed.

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