In a world in which schools suspend second graders for eating Pop Tarts into the shape of a gun, California Senate Bill 456 would create a dangerous new statutory vehicle for anti-gun school officials to attack firearms-related speech that are not “true threats.”
Under the controlling Ninth Circuit case of United States v. Bagdasarian, “A statement that the speaker does not intend as a threat is afforded constitutional protection and cannot be held criminal.”
SB 456, however, would allow the actions that school personnel or law enforcement to be used as “evidence” that “the threat was reasonably understood as true,” a standard significantly less strict than the prevailing First Amendment precedents.
Additionally, the bill fails to explain what language would be sufficient to be considered a “threat” – leaving one of the most critical factors in this matter open to subjective interpretation.
Not only does SB 456 create a new misdemeanor crime, it also provides that “[a] person convicted of violating this section….is liable to a public agency for any reasonable costs of the emergency response to the person’s threat by that public agency.”
As our opposition letter states, “SB 456’s over-breadth and apparent failure to consider First Amendment principles compels us to respectfully request that appropriate conforming changes be made, or, alternatively, that the measure be rejected by the members” of the Assembly Committee on Public Safety.
This bill is scheduled to be heard by the Committee on June 16.
Below is the member roster for the California Assembly Committee on Public Safety. Give them a call and urge their opposition to SB 456:
- Bill Quirk (Chair): (916) 319-2020
- Melissa A. Melendez: (916) 319-2067
- Reginald B. Jones-Sawyer, Sr.: (916) 319-2059
- Tom Lackey: (916) 319-2036
- Evan Low: (916) 319-2028
- Miguel Santiago (916) 319-2053
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