FRESNO, Calif. (CN) — A gun-rights activist who posted the addresses of 40 California lawmakers for supporting gun-control bills sued the state's legislative attorney, anonymously, for having the addresses removed from a blog post.
An anonymous member of the Firearms Policy Coalition, suing as Doe Publius, claims in the Aug. 5 federal complaint that the California Office of Legislative Counsel violated the First Amendment by demanding the blogging website WordPress remove his post, "Tyrants to be registered with California gun owners" for containing the names, home addresses and phone numbers of the legislators.
WordPress removed the post after receiving the state's demand but Doe claims his blog is "political advocacy" protected by the First Amendment and shouldn't have been taken down.
"By censoring the content of plaintiff's speech criticizing the government, the state has run afoul of 'the fundamental rule of protection under the First Amendment, that a speaker has the autonomy to choose the content of his own message," the complaint states.
In response to the blog post that vowed to keep the information up until the gun-control bills were repealed or the lawmakers died, the counsel sent a demand to WordPress.
The letter cited California Government Code section 6254.21 (c), which prohibits listing the home address of an elected official in conjunction with threats of violence.
"If these home addresses are not removed from this website in a timely manner, we reserve the right to file an action seeking injunctive relief, as well as associated court costs and attorney's fee," deputy legislative counsel Kathryn Londenberg wrote.
Brandon Combs, president of the Firearms Policy Coalition, said in a statement that the demand letter "carpet-bombed the Bill of Rights in the largest legislative attack on the Second Amendment rights in decades."
"FPC will not tolerate it or its members' voices being censored by any government," Combs said.
The blog was posted four days after Gov. Jerry Brown signed and vetoed a series of gun-control bills. They established background checks for ammunition purchases and expanded the state's assault weapons ban. The plaintiffs call the package "Gunpocalypse."
Under the alias "The Real Write Winger" Doe wrote that "the people who voted to send you to prison if you exercise your rights and liberties" should have their personal information exposed. He said he gathered the information through publicly available means.
The pro-gun group said, "WordPress immediately bent over for the Legislature" and asked its members for donations for "this battle against the state."
The coalition recently challenged another state law that prohibited the use of video footage from California Assembly hearings in political advertisements. In June, a federal judge found the law unconstitutional and allowed the gun-rights advocates to include Assembly footage in its advertisements against a November gun-control initiative.
Doe asks the court to rule that California law 6524.21(c) is unconstitutional and unenforceable. He is represented by Bradley Benbrook and Stephen Duvernay in Sacramento, and Eugene Volokh of the UCLA School of Law.Follow @@NickCahill_5
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