ACLU Fighting California Democrats over Gun Control

Gun Open CarryThe American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is pushing back against Democrats’ efforts to create further limitations on gun ownership based on mental health treatment.

California Democrats are pushing to secure five gun controls before the legislative session ends. One of those controls would expand bans on gun ownership to include new prohibitions related to mental health.

The Sacramento Bee reports that Democrats want to “prohibit gun ownership for anyone involuntarily committed to a facility twice in one year for a mental health disorder.” A misdemeanor conviction of domestic violence would also trigger a ban on gun ownership.

The ACLU is zeroing in on the mental health provisions, voicing opposition on the grounds that broad language is being used to lump the non-violent in with those who may, indeed, be violent. The ACLU said, “This bill stigmatizes people with a history of mental health issues, and perpetuates the harmful and false stereotype that such people are inherently violent and dangerous.”

We saw similar opposition to the Social Security gun ban, which was created and implemented federally under former President Obama. That ban prohibited gun ownership for beneficiaries who needed a money manager due to mental health struggles, be those struggles temporary or permanent. Duke University psychiatry and behavioral science Professor Jeffrey Swanson made clear that the ban was a convenient way to lump all types of people together–the violent and the non-violent–for a broad-based gun ban.

Swanson used a Washington Post column to explain that “the vast majority of mentally ill individuals” pose no threat to themselves nor to others. Yet the ban stigmatized a broad swath of the mentally ill by treating them as a threat.

The ACLU is making a similar argument against the ban being pushed by California Democrats.

AWR Hawkins is an award-winning Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News, the host of the Breitbart podcast Bullets with AWR Hawkins, and the writer/curator of Down Range with AWR Hawkins, a weekly newsletter focused on all things Second Amendment, also for Breitbart News. He is the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at [email protected]. Sign up to get Down Range at breitbart.com/downrange.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Sacramento tracking license plates to monitor welfare recipients

Photo courtesy BenFrantzDale, flickr.

Sacramento County officials have been tracking the license plates of welfare recipients in the hopes of catching potential fraud, according to a new report in the Sacramento Bee.

The license plate monitoring program, which the ACLU warned us about, snaps photos of license plates when the cars they are attached to make their way past telephone poles and police cars, letting officials track the location of vehicles. Welfare fraud investigators working with the Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance (DHA) pay $5,000 a year for access to the license plate reader database to track those welfare recipients they suspect of fraud. This isn’t new, either: They’ve been doing it since 2016.

It’s not immediately clear what welfare investigators are even hoping to do with the information they unearth by tracking license plates, but the Sacramento Bee reports the DHA accessed the data over a thousand times in two years. …

Click here to read the full article from Fast Company

Judge temporarily halts deportations of reunified families

ImmigrationA judge on Monday temporarily blocked the federal government from deporting families who have just been reunified, as officials work under court order to match more than 2,500 children with parents they were taken from at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The decision is the latest in a class-action lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union to stop the government from separating families at the border and to reunite those who were split apart. In June, Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the federal government to reunite families, putting a deadline of July 10 for children younger than 5 and July 26 for older children.

Attorneys asked Sabraw to temporarily halt deportations while he decides whether to impose a more permanent seven-day waiting period between reunification and removal for cases in which the parents have been ordered deported.

In a court filing, the ACLU argued that giving families a week together would allow them time to decide what’s best for them, whether the children should stay to push ahead with their own immigration cases or go back to their home countries with their parents. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times

ACLU Joins Unions to Attack California Charter Schools

560px-School-education-learning-1750587-hAbout 6.2 million students attend California’s K-12 public schools. Of those, over 570,000 are enrolled in public charter schools. Most of these charter schools operate with a degree of management autonomy and teacher accountability that goes well beyond what is permitted by the union work rules that govern traditional public schools. These charter schools themselves are accountable – if they don’t deliver better academic outcomes cost-effectively, they are closed down. They are a laboratory for excellence in education and administration, and they’re working. And their success is a tremendous threat to teachers unions.

Enter the ACLU. In a study released earlier this week, the ACLU said it had identified 253 schools with “exclusionary policies,” and noted “this is just the tip of the iceberg.” The exclusionary policies were (1) exclusion based on academic performance, (2) discrimination against English learners, (3) pre-enrollment essays or interviews, (4) illegal parent/guardian volunteer requirements, (5) requirements that discourage undocumented students.

If you consider the ACLU case on its merits, there isn’t much to argue about. Traditional public schools receive funding to admit all students, and charter public schools must do the same. But the entire premise is flawed: schools should be able to develop unique identities in order to offer a diverse set of educational choices to our diverse student population.

Examples of such diversity are inspiring, and range from the Eagle Academy in Harlem, which is attended almost exclusively by African American young men, or the Detroit International Academy for Young Women. These schools deliver outstanding academic results, they cannot possibly admit everyone who wants to attend, and they are exclusionary.

Some of the premises underlying the ACLU’s case are easily contestable, because they are rooted in a concession to mediocrity that has taken over public schools. Instead of making charter schools change their policies, why not change the rules? For example, why aren’t all public schools engaging in “pre-enrollment essays or interviews”? Why don’t all public schools require parents to volunteer some time at the school?

As for violation No. 2 – our public schools are academically segregated as it is, with the high-achieving students exclusively taking AP courses that relegate their exposure to the rest of the student body to hallways and common areas. Should a charter school focus on attracting top students? And if some of them did, how would that differ from what already occurs with AP courses?

The ACLU’s case with respect to the other violations is, at least, easier to justify on moral grounds. Of course we should be admitting students who don’t speak English as a first language. Of course we have to educate children regardless of their immigration status. But the vast majority of charter schools aren’t trying to exclude these students. Most charter schools are non-profits, with supplemental funding provided by philanthropists with the noblest of intentions. Charter schools are an attempt to deliver educational excellence in communities with some of the worst-performing traditional public schools in the U.S. The ACLU is missing the forest for the trees.

If the ACLU wants to fix public education, it might throw its considerable legal might behind the upcoming final round of the Vergara case, likely to be heard in the California Supreme Court next year. The plaintiffs in this case argued that the right to a quality public education is a civil right, and that students in low-income communities are denied that right through inferior public schools. They specifically challenged three union work rules which they demonstrated had a disproportionately negative impact on education in low-income communities: (1) granting teacher tenure after less than two years of classroom observation, (2) “last-in, first-out” policies whereby seniority trumps merit in layoffs, and (3) dismissal procedures so onerous that incompetent teachers are almost never fired.

Where is the ACLU with respect to Vergara?

The ACLU has a well-earned reputation for impartiality. When it comes to civil rights issues they are as likely to defend someone on the far right as someone on the far left. For this they have earned animosity and respect, depending on whom you ask. But if the ACLU intends to be truly impartial on the civil right to a quality education, at the least it may use its resources to support the plaintiffs in the Vergara case.

As for the ACLU’s salvo against charter schools? The organization should realize that charter school operators are almost invariably motivated by nothing more than providing excellent education to underprivileged students. They should be making it easier for them to do that, not more difficult.

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Ed Ring is the president of the California Policy Center.

Court Will Stop Suspending Driver’s Licenses Over Unpaid Fines

parking ticketUnder pressure from civil liberties groups, Contra Costa County Superior Court announced last week a moratorium on the practice of suspending driver’s licenses over unpaid fines.

In March, the ACLU of Northern California and other groups urged the California Judicial Council — the policy-making board of the California court system — for action, arguing that suspending licenses for unpaid fines disproportionately affects lower-income drivers.

The ACLU and others have been targeting individual courts as well in Bay Area counties. Contra Costa County Superior Court responded last week saying the Failure to Pay policy was under review.

“The court will suspend all FTP referrals until further notice,” Steven K. Austin, presiding judge of the Superior Court, wrote last week to the ACLU of Northern California and Bay Area Legal Aid. Austin added the moratorium had already begun.

In many instances, drivers receive an initial fine for some violation, with lots of additional fees tacked on. What was a $100 fine could be several hundred dollars and only swelling from there, sometimes escalating to thousands as payment is not made.

This often leads to a suspension, which limits the driver’s ability to get to work and perpetuates the problem, the coalition of civil liberties groups argued. And many of these citations are for minor infractions like not wearing a seat belt or not signaling on a turn.

By the end of 2015, more than 1.9 million Californians, many of who whom are unemployed, disabled or homeless, had suspended licenses for failure to appear or failure to pay on citations, according to data provided by civil liberties groups.

Data shows a strong correlation between high poverty rates and high suspension rates in the bay area.

“What we’re looking for is a system that doesn’t punish people for being poor,” Micaela Davis, staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California, previously told CalWatchdog. “What we see is that the fines and fees are so exorbitant on simple traffic citations that people simply can’t afford to pay.”

Detractors may argue that it’s the driver’s actions that incurred the fine in the first place, but Davis dismissed that notion, saying there are more effective ways of handling the issue.

“We can hold people accountable without also ruining their lives,” Davis said.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Debate Rages Over CA Death Penalty

Death PenaltyObliged by a court settlement to figure out a new method of capital punishment, California officials have exacerbated the state’s protracted debate over executions by settling on a different kind of lethal injection.

With a widespread shortage of execution drugs used in the now-familiar “cocktails,” officials have now aimed to “let corrections officials choose from four types of powerful barbiturates to execute prisoners,” according to KCRA Sacramento. “A choice would be made for each execution, depending on which drug is available. The single drug would replace the series of three drugs that were last used in 2006, when 76-year-old Clarence Ray Allen was executed for ordering a triple murder.”

“The plan to use barbiturates to execute inmates sentenced to die in the most populous U.S. state drew fire from religious activists, who called capital punishment grisly and anti-democratic at a hearing in Sacramento,” Reuters reported. “Law-and-order advocates urged its adoption.”

“If the new protocol is adopted by corrections officials and voters do not outlaw the death penalty next November, the state could theoretically begin executing 18 prisoners who have exhausted their appeals. Legal challenges to the lethal injection drug, however, could drag on for years.”

Opponents of the new plan insisted that it amounted to a trial-and-error approach. “The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California is suing to obtain at least 79,000 corrections department documents related to lethal injections,” KCRA noted. “It says the regulations may lack enough safeguards to prevent the state from using backdoor ways to obtain execution drugs that manufacturers never intended for that purpose.” Past cocktails have been harshly criticized for sometimes failing to execute inmates as quickly and painlessly as lethal injection was intended to do.

Languishing inmates

Much of the frustration around the issue stems from the unique backlog that has built up on the state’s Death Row. “It’s been 10 years since California executed its last death row inmate. Since then, the death row population has grown to 745,” KQED noted. “Since 1978, 117 death row inmates have died, the vast majority from natural causes and suicide.”

Although California’s Death Row has ballooned to an extraordinary size over the years, other states have found themselves burdened by court requirements in similar ways. Florida, second to California in the size of its death row population, recently faced a Supreme Court ruling that has thrown the status of its condemned inmates into question. “Death penalty prosecutions are stalled, and state lawmakers are hustling to write and pass a new death penalty law before their session ends in six weeks,” the New York Times reported. “Also in question is whether the 390 inmates awaiting execution in Florida will remain on death row or be resentenced to life in prison.” The predicament, which has gained the attention of reformers and activists across  the political spectrum, has contributed to the rise of execution reform as a hot-button issue around the country.

Divided opinion

California’s own controversy has strengthened amid a sharp divide in statewide public opinion over capital punishment. Voters, a new poll found, have “now equally divided between scrapping the death penalty altogether and speeding up the path to executing inmates on the nation’s largest death row,” according to the San Jose Mercury News. “The poll found that 47 percent of voters favor replacing the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole in California, up from 40 percent in 2014. But at the same time, the poll shows that 48 percent of registered voters would support proposals to accelerate the state’s notoriously slow system of resolving death penalty appeals to pick up the pace of executions.” Both those proposals were likely to wind up on this election year’s ballot in the form of initiatives.

Opinions have split even among Death Row inmates themselves. “Opinions vary, just like I’m sure they vary on the outside,” one inmate, Charles Crawford II, told KQED. “Some of us are against it, some of us not so much. Some of us, it’s like if they’re going to do it, do it and not have us sittin’ here for 20 or 30 years.”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com