It's About Fundamental Rights

Gun Rights Group Helps Illinois Student with 1st Amendment Struggle

Students at an Illinois high school suffered harassment when they tried to stage a counter-protest to a pro-gun control ‘walkout’ at their school in 2018. They were trying to support the Second Amendment, but their First Amendment rights were trampled.

How often do you hear about a First Amendment group supporting a Second Amendment issue?

Probably less often then you read about a Second Amendment group supporting a First Amendment case, especially one involving a 16-year-old suing an Illinois high school over an alleged violation of her constitutional right to protest. It happened in 2018, and recently the school settled the lawsuit, paying the student $35,000, news reports noted.

The case involved Madison Oster and her father, Jeremy. They sued Hononegah Community High School District 207 and school officials in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Western Division, with support and funding provided by the Second Amendment Foundation.

“It’s all about fundamental rights,” noted SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb. In a statement announcing SAF’s support of the lawsuit when it was filed, he explained, “First Amendment rights are just as important as Second Amendment rights especially when being used to protect those Second Amendment rights.”

On March 14, 2018, students at the school staged a “walkout” to demand more gun control in response to the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland, Fla. That incident fueled the “March for Our Lives” movement.

Madison and her friends had a different idea — supporting the Second Amendment with safety messages, but the executive associate principal separated her group from the other students, who were protesting on the school football field.  Madison’s group was directed to a sidewalk outside of the football field. Another principal allegedly called Madison’s group “troublemakers.”

The lawsuit also alleged that a school official “subjected Madison’s group to the taunts of their classmates by holding them aside while all of the other students walked past them into the building. One student yelled at Madison to kill herself. Another student took pictures of Madison’s group, one of which reportedly became an online meme and method of ridicule among the other HCHS students.”

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That's a 'No-No'

SAF’s Alan Gottlieb called what happened to Madison Oster an exercise in “social prejudice.”

Gottlieb was pretty miffed, observing at the time, “Social prejudice is wrong, no matter who is practicing or enabling it. It is unconscionable for school officials to allow this sort of thing, much less enable it.”

That’s why SAF jumped into the legal battle. As Gottlieb explained it, “Students with different viewpoints retain their free speech rights. When school officials allow those students to be harassed and bullied, something must be done. And we’re just the ones to do it.”

According to the Rockford Register Star, Madison claimed from the outset she had been discriminated against. Five other students joined her in the protest. The newspaper reported at the time that even the American Civil Liberties Union got involved, supporting the Oster lawsuit. At the time, the Register Star said the ACLU contended the school had discriminated against Madison and her fellow students “by isolating them, by acting dismissively toward their requests for equal treatment, and by subjecting them to bullying from fellow students.”

In August 2018, the Register Star noted in its initial coverage that, “Oster and her father contend that (one official) suggested Oster and her group might start a fight, but then relented and ushered them through the gate to the football field ‘with a sarcastic bow.’”

Veteran attorney David Sigale, who specializes in Second Amendment cases and has worked with SAF several times, represented Madison and her dad.

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2A Supporters Have Rights Too

It’s been more than three years since the Osters filed their lawsuit. The passage of time may have had a diminishing effect on the settlement, since Madison has now graduated, one of the school officials has retired and another was promoted to the principal’s position.

A written apology might have been nice, but the settlement vindicates the Osters and provides an object lesson to school officials anywhere who may treat opposing groups of students differently when it comes to Second Amendment rights.

The Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms. It is no more or less important than the First, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth amendments, which also protect individual rights.

Another Important Lawsuit

Meanwhile, according to US News, the Connecticut Citizens Defense League has filed another federal lawsuit several states away in Connecticut. CCDL alleges that police officials in the Nutmeg State are “intentionally and illegally” slowing the gun licensing process.

CCDL’s lawsuit was brought on behalf of four members, identified as Orel Johnson of Hartford, Shaquanna Williams of New Haven, Anne Cordero of Bridgeport and Jamie Eason of Waterbury. Each of their home cities is named as a defendant in the lawsuit. The complaint alleges long waits for a gun license.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Connecticut. Plaintiffs are represented by Attorneys Doug Dubitsky and Attorney Craig Fishbein.

In a prepared statement, CCDL President Holly Sullivan explained, “In addition to violating these citizen’s constitutional right to access the permitting process, these cities are notorious for violating their resident’s constitutional rights by excessively delaying the application process. The CCDL is standing up for the residents of these cities, many of whom are minorities fighting for their right to keep and bear arms for personal protection. It is unfathomable that those charged with enforcing our laws would so blatantly violate them by delaying the process to exercise a constitutional right.”

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Report Stolen Guns in Colorado

If you lose a gun in Colorado via theft or carelessness, you’ve got 5 days to report it to the police under a new law that took effect early in September.

A new law took effect in Colorado in early September requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms to police within five days of discovering the theft/loss.

It’s the Isabella Joy Tallas Act, named in memory of a woman who was murdered in June 2020 while walking her dog, according to CBS4 in Denver.

According to published reports, Thallas was killed by a man using a stolen gun that had belonged to a now-former Denver police sergeant, who reportedly did not report the loss. At the time, he was a police officer, so one might technically argue the police actually did know of the loss.

Critics of such laws contend they victimize people twice, once when their property is taken and again if they don’t promptly report it to police.

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'A Distinct Odor of Alcohol'

Pinellas County, Fla. Sheriffs deputies had a crime scene surrounded and were trying to take an armed suspect into custody when a completely naked woman driving a golf cart intruded.

According to a report from Fox News, the standoff was “tense” as lawmen waited for the suspect, identified as 18-year-old Myles Abbott, to make the next move. Reportedly wanted on a warrant for vehicular homicide, Abbott allegedly had fired shots at “people in the area” before he ran from the cops and climbed up on the roof of a house.

Into this standoff wheeled a woman from Boston identified as Jessica Smith, and she wasn’t hiding anything. The Fox report quoted an affidavit that stated she had “a distinct odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from her person.” You’ve got to be either in the news business or law enforcement to not think alcohol might be involved, and also to not be surprised this happened. Truth is always stranger than fiction; who’d make up a story like this?

It’s not clear how she got hold of the golf cart—there’s no indication Smith swapped her clothing for it. It’s also unclear how she managed to get past all the police vehicles, but there she was, probably not trying to improve her tan.

Smith was reportedly charged with “resisting an officer without violence” for her alleged misbehavior.

Abbott didn’t get away in all the excitement. Fox reported he was charged with loitering, prowling, aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer and weapons charges. At least he kept his clothes on.