SACRAMENTO, CA (Aug. 6, 2018) — Today, Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) has scored another important victory for free speech. According to an e-mail from the office of Los Angeles City Council President Mitchell Englander, they will no longer block FPC and the other individuals who were barred from viewing or responding to his official government Twitter account. Englander, a Republican, is a proponent of gun control and bans on free speech.
Last Friday, Englander moved City Attorney Mike Feuer to “prepare and present an ordinance that will enable the City of Los Angeles to prohibit and/or regulate the printing, manufacturing, possession, distribution, sale or transfer of 3D printed firearms of any kind as well as the blueprints detailing the specifications of a 3D printed firearm.” The L.A. Times reported last week that Englander also wants the California Legislature to make possessing home-built firearms and firearm blueprints a felony crime.
Englander posted about his proposed ordinance on Twitter, saying that he “introduced legislation making the possession, download, or distribution of 3D printed weaponry blueprint files a misdemeanor in LA…” But Councilmember Englander blocked FPC and some members of the public critical of his legislation from commenting on the issue and even viewing his Twitter account (@Mitch_Englander). FPC took immediate action, and on Sunday, sent his office and the City Attorney a pre-litigation demand letter.
“There can be no question that the legislation and policies you sponsor would impose a prior restraint on and criminally punish constitutionally-protected speech and information,” wrote FPC President Brandon Combs. “We, as well as our members and supporters (some of whom reside in and pay taxes to the City of Los Angeles), are deeply concerned about your proposed ban on free speech and troubled by your support of statewide legislation to impose felony criminal liability on speakers and publishers.”
FPC would be directly impacted by Englander’s ordinance, the letter said, because they have established “a publicly-available Web site for truthful, non-misleading, non-commercial speech and information that is protected under the United States Constitution” at CodeIsFreeSpeech.com.
FPC also pressed Councilmember Englander on his blocking of Twitter users from commenting on his office’s social media accounts, demanding that he “1) Immediately un-block the Firearms Policy Coalition Twitter account (@gunpolicy) so that we can reply to you and comment about issues of great public importance and debate, including but not limited to your proposed legislation; 2) Un-block the Twitter account of our member, Mr. Grant Williams (@SurlMudgeon); and, 3) Un-block all other Twitter users who are blocked from accessing and commenting on your tweets about serious issues.”
“We are simply shocked that you would so brazenly act to silence your critics, suppress opposition of your awful policies – including but not limited to users on the social media platform Twitter – and deny our and others’ access, right, and ability to engage in commentary and debate about your legislation,” the letter said, referencing in a footnote a famous scene in the film Casablanca.
Citing the Knight v. Trump lawsuit, where a federal judge ordered President Trump to stop blocking critics on Twitter, as well as a recent Supreme Court decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy and the Court’s Reno v. ACLU decision, the letter said that in addition to “raising serious constitutional concerns, [Englander’s] un-democratic blocking and silencing of critics evinces” his legislation’s “lack of foundation in law, logic, and reason.”
This morning, Colin Sweeney, Englander’s communications director, replied to FPC President Brandon Combs, stating that their actions were “done in error” and were “corrected.”
“The accounts have been unblocked,” Sweeny said.
“This is a victory for the people of Los Angeles, for us, for our members, and for the public,” said Craig DeLuz, FPC’s legislative advocate and spokesperson. “The government tried to silence critics and hide from debate. But we and the Constitution prevailed again. We are delighted that Councilmember Englander will allow us and others to show him why his proposed legislation is unconstitutional and awful policy.”
FPC has established a Take Action grassroots advocacy tool, where members of the public can oppose Englander’s proposed speech ban at no cost to them, at www.firearmspolicy.org/laspeechban.
CodeIsFreeSpeech.com is a publicly-available Web site for truthful, non-misleading speech and information that is protected under the United States Constitution. The purpose of this project is to allow people to share knowledge and empower them to exercise their fundamental, individual rights. CodeIsFreeSpeech.com is a project of Firearms Policy Coalition, Firearms Policy Foundation, The Calguns Foundation, California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees, and a number of individuals who are passionate about the Constitution and individual liberties.
Firearms Policy Coalition (www.firearmspolicy.org) is a 501(c)4 grassroots nonprofit organization. FPC’s mission is to defend the Constitution of the United States, especially the fundamental, individual Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, through advocacy, legal action, education, and outreach.