As of Jan. 1, 2020, California is part of the United States of America, at least in the official sense. Even so, Californians have good cause to wonder about their rights under the U.S. Constitution, starting with the First Amendment.
Assembly Bill 730, by Palo Alto Democrat Marc Berman, prohibits the dissemination “with actual malice,” any materially deceptive audio or visual material within 60 days of an election. Defenders of the bill see it as a defense against “deep fakes,” such as the video, posted last May, that appeared to show House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a drunken condition.
The legislation seems to assume that viewers and review media alike are unable to understand and decode such videos. Kevin Baker, legislative director of the California ACLU, charged that the bill would result in voter confusion, malicious litigation and “repression of free speech.”
The ACLU urged Gov. Gavin Newsom to veto the measure, but the San Francisco Democrat duly signed off on it. AB 730 sunsets in 2023, unlike the draconian gun laws that have Californians worried about their rights under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
As of July 1, Californians face background checks for the purchase of ammunition. Since then, 345,000 background checks have prohibited 101 purchases. By contrast, of the 62,000 buyers denied or rejected, most if not all were legally entitled to purchase ammunition. Those rejected include off-duty sheriff’s deputies buying shotgun shells to go duck hunting.
State officials attribute the problem to glitches and discrepancies in state databases, but legal gun owners and law-abiding citizens have plenty of room for doubt. Attorney Ari Freilich of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence is on record that the system is already working “as intended.” So law-abiding gun owners can believe they are the intended targets.
One of the loudest defenders of the background-check law is former California Senate boss Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat. In 2017, de Leon had Sen. Janet Nguyen, a refugee from Vietnam, carted off the senate floor when she protested a memorial for New Left icon Tom Hayden.
As he geared up for a bid to replace U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, De Leon began claiming that his father was a Chinese cook born in Guatemala and that the name on his birth certificate and voter rolls is Kevin Alexander Leon. That kind of discrepancy did not impede his bid for the U.S. Senate, but if former Senate boss tried to buy ammunition he might get turned down.
Like the raft of gun laws signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016, the ammunition background checks will make law-abiding citizens more vulnerable to violent criminals, who do not follow the law. Likewise, the “deep fake” measure does nothing to curb identity theft, document fraud and such, but it does threaten free speech.
Like the right to keep and bear arms, free speech is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. For their part, Newsom and California legislators could take a lesson from comedian Dave Chappelle. “First Amendment is first for a reason,” Chappelle explains. “Second Amendment is just in case the first one doesn’t work.”
Lloyd Billingsley is a policy fellow at the nonprofit Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.