I’ve seen some stuff going around the Internetz about a Republican California state senator authoring an anti-gun, anti-free speech bill. What’s up with that?
It’s true, sadly. State Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) has authored Senate Bill 1099, legislation that, in our view -- a view shared by other policy experts -- would suppress, undermine, and impinge upon both First Amendment and Second Amendment rights (and probably some rights under the California Constitution, also). It would also add new criminal penalties, making it easier for the State to prosecute people, put people in jail, and take away their rights and property. But this aggression will not stand, man.
Hold on -- SB 1099 is an anti-gun bill authored by a Republican?
Yes. Senator Moorlach’s SB 1099 is, according to him, modeled after laws passed by well-known pro-Second Amendment jurisdictions like the City of Los Angeles and the City and County of San Francisco.
Wait, hold on. Scratch that. San Francisco and Los Angeles HATE Second Amendment rights and the people who exercise them. Duh!
A small number of non-policy experts think SB 1099 is a great idea, one even saying that “claiming [SB 1099] is anti-Second Amendment is farcical.” But if you read the [*******] bill, you’ll see how this over-broad bill doesn’t just “protect people’s right to protest and attend rallies.” Sadly, sometimes people who don’t do real, objective analysis put their political party or preference for heavy-handed criminal laws ahead of constitutional rights and individual liberty.
To be sure, only anti-gun Democratic Senators Bradford, Jackson, Skinner, and Wiener have voted in support of Moorlach’s SB 1099. And recall that these Senators regularly author and vote for anti-gun bills. For example, see AB 1014, AB 48, AB 170, SB 567, SB 580, SB 347, SB 894, SB 620, SB 1200, SB 1346 -- all awful bills authored by the very same senators who support Senator Moorlach’s anti-gun SB 1099.
More to the point, so far, no Republican has voted for SB 1099.
All of that says something about the net effect of Senator Moorlach’s god-awful SB 1099.
Why did San Francisco feel the need to pass a similar law prohibiting legal carry of firearms during protests in the first place?
Please don’t ask us to understand what is ever in the minds of San Francisco Supervisors. But apparently, this came about after “the wrong people” suggested they would be coming armed to a planned protest at Crissy Field last year.
So what happened?
Nothing. The protest never happened. But guns!
So… why the law?
Exactly. Like most modern gun restrictions, it’s a solution looking for a problem. Because guns.
Ok, what would SB 1099 do if it’s passed and signed into law?
SB 1099 does a number of things. First, it creates a broad new ban on constitutionally-protected First and Second Amendment conduct. Secondly, it then makes a violation of its massive new ban a misdemeanor crime potentially punishable by incarceration (jail time) and fines. And third, it expressly states that the new ban doesn’t mean that prosecutors can’t charge someone who violates the ban under other criminal statutes, too.
So, if you or a family member were participating in the exercise of First Amendment rights at what might be considered a “demonstration or protest,” it would be illegal to possess, for example:
- A legally-owned handgun carried under a California CCW issued by a sheriff or police chief.
- Any tear gas, mace, pepper spray, or bear repellant.
- Any weapons such as firearms, knives, swords, sabers, or other bladed devices, axes, hatchets, ice picks, razor blades, box cutters, pellet or BB guns, conducted electrical weapons, including, but not limited to, tasers or stun guns, or any chain greater than twenty inches in length or greater than one-quarter inch in diameter, or any toy or replica firearms unless that toy or replica is fluorescent-colored or transparent.
And, as the Senate Appropriations Committee analysis recently pointed out, SB 1099 would create “[u]nknown, potentially-significant cost pressures to the court to adjudicate charges brought against defendants who carry specified prohibited items during specified public events as proscribed by this measure.” And, “[w]hile the superior courts are not funded on a workload basis, an increase in workload could result in delayed court services and would put pressure on the General Fund to fund additional staff and resources” -- slowing down California’s already-crushed courts, reducing the peoples’ access to justice, and making California’s law-abiding taxpayers bear the weight of these new costs.
What’s a “demonstration or protest” under SB 1099?
The bill doesn’t define “demonstration or protest,” so that means local law enforcement and prosecutors would be able to broadly enforce the law against pretty much anyone, anywhere likely until a criminal case went through the court system and the Court of Appeal, California Supreme Court, or United States Supreme Court struck the law down or limited its application on an “as-applied” basis.
Who would SB 1099’s broad ban on conduct and items apply to?
SB 1099’s broad criminalization language would apply to any “person” who is “attending or participating” in any public or private “demonstration or protest.” The bill doesn’t limit the ban to public events, so that means it would probably be construed to apply to anyone at a “demonstration or protest” anywhere in the State.
In other words, SB 1099 would make it illegal for Ben Shapiro, his staff, or people who invite him to speak from carrying pepper spray or electronic arms (like a “Taser” or stun gun) -- anything that could be used to defend his life against a violent mob that shows up at one of his public events.
What if I’m just a bystander who happens to walk into some situation where people are supporting or opposing some viewpoint?
Because SB 1099 is so over-broad and poorly written, it would seem that even innocent people at the site of something that *might* be considered a “demonstration or protest” would be subject to the ban.
I have a California CCW license issued by my sheriff or police chief. Would I be able to carry a handgun for self-defense under my permit if a mob showed up outside my office to protest something?
We told Senator Moorlach and his staff that his awful bill would even ban law-abiding, background-checked CCW licensees -- some of the most law-abiding and violence-averse people on the planet -- from carrying under their CCW for protecting themselves and their family members if a protest or demonstration shows up at their doorstep, or if they wanted to speak out in favor of their political views at, for example, a pro-Second Amendment rally.
Sadly, they simply don’t care and have so far refused to amend their Orwellian bill to at least exempt law-abiding CCW holders.
To be clear, we would continue to oppose SB 1099 even if they did amend the bill to exempt CCW licensees. Since access to handgun carry licenses are still “may issue” and subject to local discretion, and generally only available to California residents (and not visitors or people coming into the state to attend free speech events), such an exemption would not go far enough to maintain access to self-defense instruments for the vast majority of people in California.
Why do we need SB 1099? Doesn’t California already criminalize a lot of weapons and conduct?
We don’t need SB 1099. We don’t want SB 1099, either -- it would just pile on more authoritarian criminal laws on top of a mountain of existing ones. And it would be an understatement to say that California already bans “a lot of weapons and conduct.”
California’s statutory scheme bans and criminalizes pretty much everything, then has some exemptions that say ‘unless this’. As we pointed out in our letter of opposition to SB 1099:
California has a great many other laws, covering every criminal circumstance that this measure would seek to regulate. Indeed, “[o]ver the last several decades, California’s criminal code has grown to more than 5,000 separate provisions, covering almost every conceivable form of human misbehavior.” (October 3, 2015 veto message of Gov. Jerry Brown regarding nine bills, online at http://bit.ly/2018-10-3-brown-veto.)
What is FPC doing about this bill?
Just like we would any other anti-gun, anti-constitutional rights bill that would expand California’s criminal laws, we have and will continue to strongly oppose SB 1099 through direct advocacy, education, and grassroots action. And to be very clear, we have opposed SB 1099 from the start.
SB 1099 started out in February as a “spot bill” to “enact legislation which creates standard policies for police response to unlawful assemblies.” We put it on our “watch list” and made sure to monitor it for changes and movement.
In March, once the “real” bill language went “over the desk” -- i.e., the Legislative Counsel’s language for the bill (based on what the author’s office told their lawyers they wanted) was turned into a real, live bill and given a number -- we reached out to Senator Moorlach’s office to let them know we had serious concerns about the bill, and give them a friendly “heads-up” that, if they moved the bill forward, we would have to oppose it. They told us that they understood we were going to oppose the bill and expressed that they doubted it would move past the first committee.
Then, on April 17, we sent out a legislative alert about the bill (before the bill was heard in the Senate Public Safety Committee). That letter opened as follows:
On behalf of our members, supporters, and all law-abiding Californians, the Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) respectfully submits our strong opposition to Senator John Moorlach’s Senate Bill 1099. This measure raises a number of significant concerns, not the least of which are how it directly impinges on the fundamental, individual rights to free speech and self defense. Worse, it forces people to give up one constitutionally-enshrined right (self-defense, and the instruments necessary thereto) “while attending or participating in” the exercise of others (the right to speak, demonstrate, rally, protest, picket, and assemble).
And, in their letter of opposition, even the ACLU found SB 1099 to be exactly what we said it was:
Despite [the] asserted intention to prevent violent riots and penalize those who attempt to silence opposing views, SB 1099 would make it illegal to carry items to a protest or public demonstration that are both central to the public’s ability to express itself under the First Amendment and legal when carried at other public events.
On April 24, the bill was heard in the Senate Public Safety Committee. FPC’s Legislative Advocate, Craig DeLuz, and the California Public Defenders Association testified against the bill. You can watch the testimony against SB 1099 by clicking here. (We aren’t leaving out people who testified in support of the bill -- there weren’t any!)
A few days ago, 100% of the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to put the bill on its “suspense file.” (A “suspense file” contains “[a] bill or set of bills, with a fiscal impact, set aside in Appropriations Committee by a majority of Members present and voting. These bills may be heard at a later hearing.”)
We will continue to oppose SB 1099’s Orwellian attack on both First and Second Amendment rights.
Okay, so FPC strongly opposes SB 1099. Who else opposes the bill?
According to the Senate Public Safety Committee analysis, SB 1099 is opposed by a bipartisan coalition including the American Civil Liberties Union of California, California Public Defenders Association, and FPC.
The ACLU characterized SB 1099 as “criminalizing peaceful and constitutionally protected conduct” -- and we think that’s accurate.
And, for obvious reasons, the Public Defenders don’t like the bill either -- SB 1099 will, like all anti-gun bills, create more criminals, and then the already overworked and stretched-too-thin lawyers at various public defender’s offices throughout the state will likely take the brunt of defending them in court against prosecution.
Who IS supporting SB 1099?
SB 1099 has ZERO co-authors or co-sponsors in the Senate or Assembly.
SB 1099 had ZERO public support reported in either committee’s analysis.
SB 1099 had ZERO witnesses in support at the Senate Public Safety Committee hearing. (In addition to FPC, the ACLU showed up to oppose the bill.)
SB 1099 is not supported by the National Rifle Association.
SB 1099 is not supported by the California Rifle & Pistol Association.
SB 1099 is not supported by Gun Owners of California.
SB 1099 is not supported by Orange County Gun Owners.
SB 1099 is not supported by San Diego County Gun Owners.
SB 1099 is not supported by the Madison Society.
SB 1099 is not supported by the Golden State Second Amendment Council.
SB 1099 is not even supported by law-enforcement groups who often support anti-gun bills that expand criminal laws.
And, to reiterate a pretty telling data point, no Republican has voted for SB 1099 so far.
The only people who support SB 1099 are its author, Senator Moorlach, some anti-gun Democrats in the Senate, and a few Republican agitators who put party politics ahead of constitutional rights.