Thursday, July 18, 2013

Strange Bedfellows

No Lawyers - Only Guns and Money

GRNC Alert On The HB 937 Conference Committee

Posted: 17 Jul 2013 10:20 AM PDT

Grass Roots North Carolina issued an alert last night regarding the move the NC House to send HB 937 to a Conference Committee. The move, while disappointing, was not unexpected given the staunch opposition by the NC Sheriffs Association to doing away with the Jim Crow-era pistol purchase permit system. There had been rumors that Gov. Pat McCrory (R-NC) would veto the bill if that provision was not removed as a way to placate the sheriffs.

The alert from GRNC encourages gun rights supporters to contact Speaker Thom Tills (R-Mecklenburg), Sen. President Pro-Tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), and Gov. McCrory to demand that, with the exception of the pistol purchase permit system, nothing else be dropped from the bill.

From GRNC:

House sends bill to conference committee

As expected, the NC House today voted against concurring with Senate changes to HB 937 ("Amend Various Firearms Laws"). The bill contains provisions for concealed carry in restaurants, assemblies of people for which admission is charged, state-controlled parking lots, educational properties (provided guns are kept in locked vehicles) and much more. If passed largely intact, it will represent the largest advance in gun rights in North Carolina history.

At issue is the repeal of North Carolina's Jim Crow-era pistol purchase permit law, which is opposed by the NC Sheriffs' Assoc. and Governor Pat McCrory. While GRNC strongly urged that the House concur with Senate strengthening of the bill, leaving the full PP repeal intact, we remain optimistic about resolution of differences because Speaker Thom Tillis' office has said that:

  1. Other aspects of the bill will not be weakened in committee and will, in fact, likely be strengthened in at least one respect;
  2. Although the PP repeal will not stay in entirety, in a radio interview Tillis has promised a compromise which will at least partially satisfy the concerns of all interested parties, including GRNC; and
  3. The bill will pass THIS YEAR.

Thanks to the stalwarts

First, GRNC wishes to thank the 18 stalwart gun rights supporters who voted for concurrence, even in the face of pressure to weaken the bill. They are: Representative(s): Bell, J.; Brawley, R.; Brody; Bumgardner; Catlin; Elmore; Faircloth; Ford; Hastings; Jones; Jordan; Millis; Pittman; Presnell; Shepard; Speciale; Stone; Torbett.

Conference committee members

We do NOT recommend beating on the following legislators who have been appointed to the conference committee, since they are generally strong Second Amendment supporters with excellent voting records. We are particularly heartened by the fact that the Senate Chair is Sen. Buck Newton, primary architect of the Senate improvements to HB 937. The conferees are:

House: Rep. Jacqueline Michelle Schaffer, Chair; Rep. Justin P. Burr; Rep. John Faircloth; Rep. George G. Cleveland.

Senate: Sen. E. S. (Buck) Newton, Chair, Sen. Kathy Harrington, Sen. Andrew C. Brock, Sen. Shirley B. Randleman.


CALL & EMAIL Speaker Thom Tillis, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and Gov. Pat McCrory.

Contact Information

Speaker Thom Tillis, 919-733-3451,


Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, (919) 733-5708


Gov. Pat McCrory, (919) 814-2000,

Email using webpage at


Suggested Subject: Keep HB 937 Strong

Dear Speaker Tillis/President Pro Tem Phil Berger/Governor Pat McCrory:

While I am disappointed that Republican leaders bowed to demands by the North Carolina Sheriffs' Association, which seems to oppose repeal of the Jim Crow-era pistol purchase permit law entirely for reasons of power and money, I remain optimistic that leadership will deliver a strong bill to the gun-owning voters who elected them.

It goes without saying that all other aspects of House Bill 937 must remain entirely intact. Beyond that, any "compromise" worked out on the purchase permit repeal must: (1) Not impose additional burdens on gun owners, including (but not limited to) record-keeping on firearm transfers and restrictions and limitations on permits; and (2) Close the "arming felons loophole" by repealing at least the portion of the law dealing with dealer transfers.

Realizing that conferees will be acting only on the approval of leadership, I will hold you responsible for the HB 937 conference committee report. I hope to tell other gun-owning voters, in future elections, that you supported their rights. I will closely monitor this issue via Grass Roots North Carolina legislative alerts.


Strange Bedfellows

Posted: 17 Jul 2013 10:06 AM PDT

Politics and the fight for civil rights can sometimes create strange alliances that normally would never occur. A case in point is a lawsuit filed yesterday by the Electronic Freedom Foundation against the National Security Agency on behalf of 19 wildly different organizations. The plaintiffs include a diverse group including the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, Greenpeace, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Council on American Islamic Relations Foundation, and the CalGuns Foundation. Other gun related entities in the lawsuit include Franklin Armory and the Cal-FFL.

From the EFF press release on the lawsuit:

"The First Amendment protects the freedom to associate and express political views as a group, but the NSA's mass, untargeted collection of Americans' phone records violates that right by giving the government a dramatically detailed picture into our associational ties," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "Who we call, how often we call them, and how long we speak shows the government what groups we belong to or associate with, which political issues concern us, and our religious affiliation. Exposing this information – especially in a massive, untargeted way over a long period of time – violates the Constitution and the basic First Amendment tests that have been in place for over 50 years."

At the heart of First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA is the bulk telephone records collection program that was confirmed by last month's publication of an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) further confirmed that this formerly secret document was legitimate, and part of a broader program to collect all major telecommunications customers' call histories. The order demands wholesale collection of every call made, the location of the phone, the time of the call, the duration of the call, and other "identifying information" for every phone and call for all customers of Verizon for a period of three months. Government officials further confirmed that this was just one of series of orders issued on a rolling basis since at least 2006.

"People who hold controversial views – whether it's about gun ownership policies, drug legalization, or immigration – often must express views as a group in order to act and advocate effectively," said Cohn. "But fear of individual exposure when participating in political debates over high-stakes issues can dissuade people from taking part. That's why the Supreme Court ruled in 1958 that membership lists of groups have strong First Amendment protection. Telephone records, especially complete records collected over many years, are even more invasive than membership lists, since they show casual or repeated inquiries as well as full membership."

The lawsuit, First Unitarian Church of LA et al v. National Security Agency et al, was filed yesterday in US District Court for the Northern District of California. It names the NSA, the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the United States as defendants along with NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander, Attorney General Eric Holder,  Acting Asst. AG for National Security John Carlin, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. The officials named are being sued in both their official and individual capacities.

The lawsuit contends that the NSA's Associational Tracking Program which collects and stores records of all telephone calls made within the United States and the related searches made of that database "without a valid, particularized warrant suipported by probable cause violate the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments."

The suit contends in Count 1 that the defendants have violated the plaintiffs' First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of association and that their actions serve to chill these rights by threatening disclosure of their political and other associations. Count 2 asserts that the defendants have violated the plaintiffs' "reasonable expectations of privacy and denied Plaintiffs their right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures" as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. Count 3 contends that the plaintiffs' privacy rights and their Fifth Amendment rights to substantial and procedural due process were violated by the defendants.

The plaintiffs are seeking a declaratory judgment that the NSA program violates Constitutional rights and both preliminary and permanent injunctions against continued use of the Associational Tracking Program. They also want the government to provide an inventory of all records seized under the Program and then to destroy them.

I think the premise of a lawsuit against the NSA based upon an extension of the 1950s era Supreme Court rulings concerning the NAACP and others membership list is both valid and ingenious. It is hard to argue that a program that has at its very heart the tracking of associational relationships is not an extension of a membership list. That this lawsuit was brought in the District of Northern California and, by extension, the Ninth Circuit is a wise move given the historic deference paid to First Amendment issues by those courts. It will be very interesting to see the government's response to this suit.

UPDATE: The participation of the CalGuns Foundation caught the attention of the Washington Times. They interviewed Gene Hoffman about the case and CalGuns participation in it.

Gene Hoffman, the chairman of the Calguns Foundation, said that “California gun owners are, shall we say, understandably paranoid” about the idea that government agencies might be recording the number, destination and duration of their phone calls — even if they weren’t actually listening in.

California’s “gun laws are relatively byzantine and intricate,” he said, so Calgun Foundation had “set up a hotline for people who get in trouble through their lawful ownership of firearms or who have questions about whether something they are going to do might be prohibited.”
“The stereotype of gun-owners being paranoid turned out to be true,” he said, noting that “people were turning to our hotline and using the phone specifically because they didn’t want to have a record created.”

The 1958 Supreme Court case NAACP vs. Alabama barred the state government from compelling disclosure of the NAACP’s membership list because of its chilling effect on free association.

“Telephone records, especially complete records collected over many years, are even more invasive than membership lists, since they show casual or repeated inquiries as well as full membership,” said Ms. Cohn.

Mr. Hoffman agreed, noting that — in the case of callers to the Calguns hotline — it was the potential for cross-referencing that most alarmed people.

California law bans medical marijuana patients from gun ownership, for instance, so “if you were known to have phoned both us and NORML, it could cause people to ask questions questions you really didn’t want to be asked,” he said.


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