On Feb. 27, a federal judge of the the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, ruled that a list of all the pro-gun control California legislators (including their home addresses and phone numbers) is protected as free speech. The list was published in July 2016 by an anonymous blogger known as Doe Publius.
"Isn't that dangerous?" Publius wrote on his blog The Real Write Winger when he posted the list, reports The Washington Post. "What if something bad happens to them by making that information public?" Publius continued before concluding, "These tyrants are no longer going to be insulated from us."
“These are the people who voted to send you to prison if you exercise your rights and liberties,” Publius later wrote, adding that the list would only be taken down upon repeal of gun legislation or “upon the tyrant’s death.”
Within days, the "tyrant registry" (as it had become known) was reblogged across gun rights websites, and had led to several of the legislators listed to receive various threats. The California legislative counsel quickly ordered WordPress, The Real Write Winger's host site, to take down the post.
“The Senators and Assembly Members whose home addresses are listed on this Web site fear that the public display of their addresses on the Internet will subject them to threats and acts of violence at their homes,” Deputy Legislative Counsel Kathryn Londenberg wrote in the letter sent July 8.
WordPress complied with the demand, which then led to Publius filing suit.
But on Feb. 27, U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill ruled that the "tyrant registry" was a "a form of political protest."
"The legislators' home address and telephone number touch on matters of public concern," he wrote in his opinion. "There is no dispute that Plaintiffs lawfully obtained and truthfully published information that was readily available online. ...When lawfully obtained, the truthful publication of that information falls within the First Amendment's ambit."
"I can certainly see why people would be troubled by that," Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor and an attorney hired by the Firearms Policy Coalition to sue, said, reports Capitol Public Radio. "But before you restrict speech, even in an attempt to try to prevent some people from misusing that speech, you need a very demanding showing."