A gun rights group has filed a lawsuit against Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, arguing that his agency violated the public’s right to access firearm confiscation records, including a gun violence restraining order for an alleged online hate group leader from Orangevale.
The Firearms Policy Coalition, based in Sacramento, announced it had filed the lawsuit against the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office in a news release Wednesday afternoon. The gun rights group argues that the Sheriff’s Office violated the California Public Records Act and the state constitution.
“People have a right to know how the government is enforcing its laws and policies, especially in cases that involve the seizure of firearms and the suspension of fundamental, constitutionally enumerated rights,” the group’s director of legal strategy, Adam Kraut, said in the news release. “The defendants’ denial of our requests is particularly concerning in light of it being a significant matter of great public interest, and we look forward to finding out what they’re hiding from us and all Californians.”
Sgt. Rodney Grassmann, a Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said the agency’s policy is to not comment on pending litigation.
The gun rights group says the law enforcement agency denied the group’s requests for access to firearm confiscations records and policies, including a recent incident in which the Sheriff’s Office worked with the FBI using California gun violence restraining orders to seize guns from a resident.
The 28-page lawsuit filed in Sacramento Superior Court refers to requests for records involving a gun violence restraining order against Andrew Richard Casarez. The Orangevale man has been accused of leading a white supremacist group.
In August, Sacramento Superior Court Judge David De Alba extended a temporary gun violence restraining order against Casarez handed down in July. De Alba ruled that Casarez cannot possess a gun for one year.
Sheriff’s Office detectives obtained an an emergency restraining order against Casarez and in July seized a 9-milimeter firearm from him.
The Sheriff’s Office had been investigating Casarez for alleged hate crimes after he allegedly posted online for years as Vic Mackey, the leader of a group inspired by mass shooter Dylann Roof known as the Bowl Patrol.
The Bowl Patrol is a group with about 1,000 online followers that posted podcasts advocating violence. It is named for the distinctive haircut Roof sported when he killed nine Black people at a Charleston, South Carolina, prayer meeting in 2015, Cassie Miller, a senior research analyst with the Southern Poverty Law Center told The Sacramento Bee in late July.
In early August, the Firearms Policy Coalition requested all records related to Casarez’s gun violence restraining order. The gun rights group also requested the Sheriff’s Office policies regarding gun violence restraining orders and related petitions, warrants and seizures, including video from body cameras and police car dashboard cameras, or other video, audio or radio recordings.
The group says the Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 26 denied requests for most of the records it asked for and provided an inadequate response for the remaining records request.
Paul Nicholas Boylan, the Davis-based attorney representing the group, sent a letter to the Sheriff’s Office on Sept. 18, requesting additional information about the denied requests, but the Sheriff’s Office never responded to that letter, according to the group’s news release.
“The California Constitution and state law provide a robust right to transparent, accountable government, and yet the Sacramento County Sheriff’s (Office) has denied and ignored the FPC’s requests for records relating to Gun Violence Restraining Orders,” Boylan said in Wednesday’s release. “We are hoping that by demanding transparency of the SCSD in this case, it will curtail future infringements on the public’s rights to access information held by public agencies.”
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