This Is What Conservatives Should Do To Reach Millennials

Millennials have been a hard group to reach for conservative and (some) libertarian organizations. It is why the NRA started their younger commentator series featuring Colion Noir, Natalie Foster, Dom Raso, etc.

I just came across a series from the Independent Institute called “Love Gov”. It features Alexis, a fun loving, independent young woman, and Scott “Gov” Govinski, her creepy, intrusive boyfriend. It is an allegory using the boyfriend as a stand-in for our current government. In Episode 5 below, Alexis has broken up with Gov and now he is intruding upon her privacy.

Kudos to whomever at the Independent Institute came up with this. I found it a very effective way to reach 20-somethings. Now if we could just get them to look up from their smart phones and see what else is happening in the world.

Strange Bedfellows

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 Frontier 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.

Virginia Goes Private

This past week Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) signed a bill that would make information about concealed handgun permit holders in Virginia private. The new law forbids clerks of court from disclosing the name and other information concerning concealed handgun permit holders except to law enforcement.

Earlier legislation had forbidden the release of this information by the Virginia State Police. However, most concealed handgun permit information resides with the commonwealth Circuit Courts. That law was in response to the publishing of the names of concealed handgun permit holders by the Roanoke Times back in 2007.

SB 1335 was introduced by Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg). The bill was given two thumbs up by the Virginia Citizens Defense League.

Obenshain’s original bill was more narrowly focused. It would have shielded from disclosure personal information about permit holders who were under the protective orders generally granted to people threatened with domestic violence.

The bill easily cleared the Senate. It was then overhauled by a House of Delegates subcommittee, which broadened it to include all concealed-handgun permit holders. Obenshain expressed support for that change, which upset advocates for gun control and open government.

One of the things that spurred this legislation was the publication of the names and addresses of pistol permit holders in New York by the Journal News.

It is my hope that North Carolina legislators will now follow suit in this session of the General Assembly. The bills there appear to have good support and with Republican control of both houses are likely to pass.

GRNC – Stop Release Of Permit Info

Grass Roots North Carolina sent out an alert this evening urging North Carolinians to write their State Representative and State Senator urging them to support SB 28 and HB 17. A number of sheriffs in the state are now refusing to release this data on public safety grounds. These bills, if passed, will make CHP and pistol purchase permit data private and not subject to the state’s version of the Freedom of Information Act.

Several NC Sheriffs refuse to give sensitive information…

According to a recent article in the “The Charlotte Observer,” several of North Carolina’s 100 Sheriffs are standing up for your rights by not releasing sensitive information associated with Concealed Handgun Permits which they feel is a breach of privacy and beyond the scope of what is required by laws covered under the Freedom of Information Act.

Citing safety concerns, some have refused requests based on concerns over the identities of victims of domestic violence who still may be in danger, as well as dangers many gun owners would face if the information was made public. Sheriff Alan Cloninger of Gaston County has sent a letter to CHP holders within his jurisdiction explaining his reasoning for not releasing private information, again citing safety concerns. North Carolina Sheriffs, along with many other law enforcement agencies are realizing that the release of such information is not only dangerous but a serious breach of public safety and privacy.

Legislative attempts to stop the pressure

Currently, there are two bills in the North Carolina General Assembly that address this important issue that you need to be aware of: SB 28 and HB 17.

SB 28: “Gun Permit Information/No Publication”(Bingham). Removes concealed handgun permit and handgun purchase permit records from public record, preventing abuses of the information by media outlets such as those by the “Journal News,” WRAL-TV and “The New York Times.” GRNC supports the bill.

HB 17: “Gun Permits/Restaurants & Confidentiality” (Burr, Hager, Hollo, Bell). The restaurant carry language of the bill is identical to what GRNC drafted in HB 111, which failed to pass the Senate last year. The second section removes handgun purchase permit and concealed handgun permit information from public record. GRNC supports the bill.

Your voice must be heard

If left to their own discretion, politicians will cater to the loudest voices. These two Bills are important safeguards against the abuse of sensitive information. Your information should never be used as a way to sensationalize news organizations’ efforts to gain ratings as they have so many times before. They don’t care about your safety, they care about their own ratings. Your State Senators and Representatives need to know that you are watching these Bills closely, and that they have your support.


Contact your NC State Senator and tell them to support SB 28
Contact NC State House representative and tell them to support HB 17
Support GRNC: GRNC needs your support to help combat the efforts against your rights as gun owners. Join or renew your membership!
SIGN THE “STOP THE GUN BAN” PETITION: Go to: Whether or not you have already signed it, forward this to others and tell them to sign it too.


Find your reps by going to:


Suggested Subject: “Stop Release Of Permit Holder Info”

Dear : Senator or Representative,

I am alarmed at the number of requests by news organizations and others for information about me. As a resident of your district and a concerned gun owner, I find it appalling that news outlets would try to use personal and private information about me to liven up their stories in the hopes of creating a fear-driven ratings boost for them.

Two bills currently active in the North Carolina General Assembly will make information about my status as a Concealed Handgun Permit holder closed to the public eye. I urge you to support and vote for SB28 and HB17 when they come to the floor. The information that news organizations, not to mention anti-gun activists, can and will be used on a wide basis, will not only put my life in danger, but also the lives of my family members.

I cannot stand by and allow this kind of information to become public for all those who happen to ask for it. I will monitor your actions via Grass Roots North Carolina legislative alerts.