|Lt. Jerry Bledsoe as shown on video|
Second Amendment supporters continue to use the First Amendment to support their rights. It was only a few weeks ago that a New York Times blogger, Patrick Blanchfield, linked to Gun Watch to bolster his compelling case that open carry of firearms is protected political speech under the First Amendment. Here is a case where the ACLU in Missouri has obtained a settlement against a police officer and department for suppressing First Amendment rights that were used to support Second Amendment rights. From the ACLU in MO:
CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO—Police Officer Jerry Bledsoe sent a written apology to Second Amendment advocate Jordan Klaffer, and agreed to pay damages, court costs and attorneys’ fees. The Village of Kelso, where Bledsoe works, also assured Klaffer in writing that they will instruct police officers to not seek court orders to censor individuals who are critical of police officers’ actions. In response, today Klaffer and the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri asked the United States District Court to dismiss the First Amendment lawsuit filed in February on Klaffer’s behalf.
Klaffer is a gun rights advocate who frequently fires his weapons at objects on private property. On May 1, 2013, Jerry Bledsoe, a police officer, confronted Klaffer while responding to a noise complaint.
Admittedly, this is an extreme case, where a police officer blatantly suppressed someone from exercising their Second Amendment rights, then compounded the error by using the color of law to suppress the citizen's use of the First Amendment to expose and criticize the officer's actions. Officer Bledsoe went so far as to obtain a court order that forbid Mr. Klaffer from publishing video and text about the incident. This is in direct contradiction to court rulings that the recording of police officers in the public performance of their duties is a right protected under the First Amendment freedom of the press.Klaffer videotaped the interaction, where Bledsoe issued an ultimatum to Klaffer to surrender his guns or be arrested. Klaffer refused to give up his guns and was arrested for disturbing the peace.
To express his opinion that Officer Bledsoe was using his position to harass him for exercising his Second Amendment rights, Klaffer posted recordings of the encounter on social media and Officer Bledsoe retaliated by obtaining a court order that prevented Mr. Klaffer from posting videos, pictures, and text data criticizing Officer Bledsoe on the Internet.Here is the video on YouTube.
It appears that Lt. Bledsoe, who was not in uniform, believed that any neighbor had the ability to stop any other neighbor from shooting guns on their own property, if they merely stated that the firing was "disturbing the peace". This gives anyone a veto on any other persons ability to use their property, without benefit of due process of law. Certainly the firing of guns can disturb the peace; a neighbor in a quiet suburban neighborhood could have a case if their neighbor fired off magnum rounds after midnight, without reasonable justification. That was not the case here. I have repeatedly read of accounts were people who do not like guns try to close down shooting ranges. Often the range was there long before the people complaining moved into the area.
The amendments in the Bill of Rights support and enhance each other. A video/audio recorder, whether part of a cell phone, security system or dedicated gear, has proved to be a valuable piece of defensive equipment. It may not stop bullets; but it can stop lawsuits and court actions.
©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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