Gun Control Advocate Sues Missouri Police

     ST. LOUIS (CN) – After a gun-control advocate posted “Which one do I need to shoot up a kindergarten?” on a pro-gun Facebook page, Missouri police arrested him illegally, he claims in court.
     James Robert Ross posted the remark in the comments section of a pro-gun article on a Facebook page on Jan. 25.
     Jackson police arrested him the next day, for disturbing the peace and making a terrorist threat, Ross says in his federal lawsuit.
     Ross, 20, sued the City of Jackson, and its police Officers Ryan Medlin, Anthony Henson and Toby Freeman, on June 5.
     Ross says in the lawsuit that his comment “was worded in the form of a rhetorical question and did not make any specific, direct threat against any specific, identifiable person or persons.”
     “Plaintiff’s comment was intended to be a critical comment directed at and in response to the many mass shootings that have occurred at schools in the United States in recent years, often through the use of assault rifles.”
     Ross says his comment is protected by the First Amendment, and that it was not unreasonable nor was it made with the purpose of knowingly disturbing or alarming others.
     Ross says he has “often been critical of what he sees as lax gun regulation in the United States and its perceived connection to firearm violence, particularly mass school shootings.” To express his “political dissatisfaction,” he says, he used “a dark-humored, hyperbolic rhetorical question to bring attention to the fact that the firearms depicted in the Facebook post have often been used in mass school shootings.”
     The Facebook post to which he reacted was titled, “Why I Need a Gun.”
     Officers Henson and Freeman arrested Ross at his job. He says he acknowledged making the comment “in a satirical manner and in reference to the Newton, Massachusetts Sandy Hook mass school shooting of December 14, 2012.”
     He told the officers he is a pacifist who supports gun control because he feels it could prevent tragedies such as Sandy Hook. He says he told the officers that his comment was not meant as a threat, but as a political statement.
     Officer Medlin applied for an arrest warrant, though in the probable cause statement Medlin failed to identify specific targets for Ross’s alleged threat and Ross’s statements made it clear that the comment was constitutionally protected speech, the complaint states.
     Ross was held in jail for 72 hours before being released on a $1,000 cash bond for disturbing the peace. A Cape Girardeau County prosecutor dismissed the charge on April 7.
     Ross seeks punitive damages for unlawful seizure and constitutional violations, and an injunction ordering the city to train its police officers about the Constitution.
     He is represented by Gordon Glaus with Glaus & Gohn in Cape Girardeau.
     Courthouse News received the complaint late Monday. Attempts to get comment from the Jackson Police Department were unsuccessful.
     Jackson, pop. 14,386, 110 miles south of St. Louis, is 95 percent white. Its median income is slightly above the state average, and 71 percent of its voters chose Romney over Obama in the 2012 presidential election, according to city-data.com.

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