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Federal Judge tosses California’s 3 decade old ban on assault rifles

“California’s 30 year old ban on assault weapons violates the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” judge rules.

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United States District Court for the Southern District of California

SAN DIEGO – In a ruling issued Friday evening, U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez ruled that California’s three-decade-old ban on assault weapons violates the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The state had first crafted the ban in 1989 and in the intervening thirty-two years lawmakers in Sacramento had repeatedly amended the law.

The case, Miller v. Bonta (previously Miller v. Becerra) had been brought by the  Firearms Policy Coalition, (FPC) which in 2019, developed and filed the suit as a federal Second Amendment challenge to California’s Assault Weapons Control Act (AWCA). The FPC argued that the State’s ban prohibits arms that are constitutionally protected, no more lethal than other certain arms that are not banned, and commonly possessed and used for lawful purposes in the vast majority of the United States.

The Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989 (AWCA) is a California law that bans the ownership and transfer of over 50 specific brands and models of semi-automatic firearms, which were classified as assault weapons. Most were rifles, but some were pistols and shotguns.

In his ruling, Benitez wrote that the state’s definition of illegal military-style rifles unlawfully deprives law-abiding Californians of weapons commonly allowed in most other states.

The state’s definition of an assault weapon was the focus of the ruling. California’s attorney general  Rob Bonta argued that assault weapons were more dangerous and were used in more crimes and mass shootings.

“Today’s decision is a direct threat to public safety and the lives of innocent Californians, period. As the son of a judge, I grew up with deep respect for the judicial process and the importance of a judge’s ability to make impartial fact-based rulings, but the fact that this judge compared the AR-15 – a weapon of war that’s used on the battlefield – to a Swiss Army Knife completely undermines the credibility of this decision and is a slap in the face to the families who’ve lost loved ones to this weapon. We’re not backing down from this fight, and we’ll continue pushing for common sense gun laws that will save lives,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a press release Friday evening.

A spokesperson for the Governor pointed out that California has led the nation in passing gun safety laws, having pioneered statewide protections approved by voters in Proposition 63 to ban possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines and requiring background checks to keep ammunition out of the hands of dangerous people.

Since assuming office, Newsom has signed multiple bills aimed at reducing gun violence, including strengthening gun violence restraining orders and regulating the sale of firearms and ammunition. He also worked with the Legislature to accelerate the regulation of ‘ghost guns’ to crack down on the use of untraceable firearms by criminals.

“Because of California’s commitment to meaningful gun safety laws, the state has one of the lowest firearm injury death rates in the country,” the spokesperson noted.

The ruling is stayed for 30 days, pending California Attorney General  Rob Bonta’s appeal.

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Calif. mother claims school manipulated child into changing gender identity

Konen gave the school permission to use the boy’s name for attendance and tried to be supportive but noted it was difficult for her

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Fox News host Laura Ingraham & Center for American Liberty CEO Harmeet Dhillon with client, Jessica Konen (Screenshot Fox News)

SPRECKELS, Ca. – A Northern California mother is claiming teachers in a small school district in the state manipulated her daughter into changing her gender identity and name in a legal claim. 

The claim, filed by the ultra-conservative Center for American Liberty on behalf of the mother, alleged “extreme and outrageous conduct” by the Spreckels Union School District, leading Jessica Konen’s 11-year-old daughter to change her gender identity and drive a wedge between them.

Specifically, the claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, names two teachers – Lori Caldera and Kelly Baraki – at Buena Vista Middle who, in addition to teaching, ran the school’s Equality Club, later known as UBU (You Be You). Buena Vista is a part of the district. 

It comes after Abigail Shrier, the author of a book widely criticized as anti-trans, quoted what the two educators said last year at the California Teachers Association’s annual LGBTQ+ Issues Conference in a piece headlined “How Activist Teachers Recruit Kids.” Caldera and Baraki spoke about the difficulty of running a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in a socially conservative community. 

After the article was published, the teachers were put on administrative leave, and the district hired a law firm to investigate, which is ongoing. The UBU club was suspended. 

Spreckels is a town of about 400 people in the agricultural Salinas Valley, approximately 90 miles south of San Francisco

According to the complaint, Konen’s daughter began attending Equality Club meetings after being invited by a friend when she started sixth grade at Buena Vista. After attending one session, she decided it wasn’t for her until Caldiera convinced her to come back. At the gatherings, Caldera and Baraki held LGBTQ-centered discussions and introduced students to different gender identities and sexualities. 

During her time in the club, Konen’s daughter began exploring her own gender identity and sexuality, choosing to wear more masuline clothes. At some point, she decided to change her name and pronouns, which she has since changed back to her original name and pronouns. 

Konen said she was aware her daughter was bisexual but did not know she began using a male name and gender pronouns until she was called into the school when her daughter was in seventh grade. The meeting caught both Konen and her daughter by surprise – Konen’s daughter had said she wanted to notify her mother, but she did not know the meeting was that day. 

Konen gave the school permission to use the boy’s name for attendance and tried to be supportive but noted it was difficult for her. 

However, when Shrier’s article was published and circulated around the small town, everything changed. At this time, Konen’s daughter was again using a female name and pronouns.

In the leaked recording from the LGBTQ conference, Caldera and Baraki were discussing how they kept meetings private, among other things. 

“When we were doing our virtual learning — we totally stalked what they were doing on Google, when they weren’t doing school work,” Baraki said. “One of them was googling ‘Trans Day of Visibility.’ And we’re like, ‘Check.’ We’re going to invite that kid when we get back on campus.”

However, Caldera told the San Francisco Chronicle that the quotes were either taken out of context or misrepresented. According to Caldera, the stalking comment was a joke. She also defended their work, saying students lead the conversation and they provide honest and fair answers to their questions.
In addition, a spokesperson for the California Teachers Association criticized the group bringing the lawsuit forward, according to the Associated Press: “We are concerned about a political climate right now in which outside political forces fuel chaos and misinformation and seek to divide parents, educators and school communities for their own political gain, which is evident in this complaint. The Center for American Liberty is concerned with pushing its own political agenda through litigation and has filed multiple lawsuits against various school districts and communities.”

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New bill for Kids 12+ to get vaccinated without parental consent introduced

It’s unacceptable for this vaccine to be excluded from the decisions California teens are already empowered to make about their bodies

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Ilhuitemoc Tirado, 17, is vaccinated at a clinic held at the Los Nietos Library in Whittier (Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles)

SACRAMENTO – Out Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced Senate Bill 866 this past week which allows young people 12 years and older to get vaccinated without parental consent.

SB 866, the Teens Choose Vaccines Act, applies to all vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that meet the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Young people 12 and over are already allowed to make critical decisions about their bodies without parental consent, including getting the human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B vaccines, accessing reproductive healthcare and mental healthcare, among other health services. SB 866 would simply build on existing law to expand youth access to vaccines.

“Giving young people the autonomy to receive life-saving vaccines, regardless of their parents’ beliefs or work schedules, is essential for their physical and mental health,” said Senator Wiener. “COVID-19 is a deadly virus for the unvaccinated, and it’s unconscionable for teens to be blocked from the vaccine because a parent either refuses or cannot take their child to a vaccination site. So many teens want to be vaccinated so that they can lead a more normal life — participating in sports or band, traveling, going to friends’ homes — but they’re prevented from doing so due to their parents’ political views or inability to find the time. Unvaccinated teens also make schools less safe and threaten our ability to keep schools open. In states like Alabama and South Carolina, teenagers are already allowed to get vaccinated without parental consent. Young Californians should also have the right to keep themselves healthy and safe.” 

With the persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the widespread availability of highly effective and safe vaccines to treat serious COVID-19 illness, it’s more important than ever that young adults be able to access vaccines. Over a quarter of young people ages 12 and 17 — nearly a million young people — remain unvaccinated. These low vaccination rates can have dire consequences for teens; a recent study found that almost all teenagers who needed intensive care for COVID-19 were unvaccinated, and all who died were unvaccinated. 

Under existing law, young people ages 12 and 17 cannot be vaccinated without parental consent, unless the vaccine is specifically to prevent a disease that is sexually transmitted. This serves as a significant barrier to teen health in California, particularly in situations where parents and children hold conflicting views about vaccines.

Parental consent requirements for vaccines are also a barrier in cases where a child is experiencing medical neglect, or simply because working or otherwise busy parents are not available to take their children to medical visits. Low-income children may experience longer waits to get vaccinated because their parents may work longer hours — often without paid time off — and can’t take them to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.

Young people age 12 and 17 can also get birth control and abortions, as well as medical treatment for sexually transmitted infections, drug and alcohol-related disorders, injuries resulting from sexual assaults and intimate partner violence, and mental health disorders – all without parental consent. In addition, various states already allow minors to access vaccines without parental consent, including Alabama, South Carolina, Washington, DC, Oregon, and Rhode Island.

This problem has implications far beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Measles, for example, spreads efficiently among unvaccinated youth, whose parents have sadly chosen to block them from receiving a potentially life-saving vaccine. Measles was, at one time, considered eliminated in the United States. But vaccine misinformation and hesitancy has allowed it to spread once again.

Allowing young people to get vaccinated is critical not only for physical health, but for mental health, too. The United States Department of Health and Human Services found that adolescents ages 12-17 are seven times more likely to experience a new or recurring mental health issue after getting sick with COVID-19. And studies have found that school closures over the past couple of years have led to negative impacts on teens’ mental health, and academic achievement, and have widened class-based academic disparities.

While school closures may have been necessary earlier in the pandemic when vaccines weren’t widely available, we now have the tools to keep students and teachers healthy and in the classroom. 

Senator Wiener is a member of the California Legislature’s Vaccine Work Group. SB 866 is sponsored by ProtectUS, Teens for Vaccines, GenUP (Generation UP), and MAX the Vax. Senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) is a joint author of SB 866. Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) is principal co-author of SB 866, and it is also co-authored by Assemblymembers Evan Low (D-Campbell), Akilah Weber (D-La Mesa), Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters), and Senator Josh Newman (D-Orange County).

“In my view, this change in California policy is so important because it’s not only for COVID, it’s for all vaccines that protect us,” said Nyla, 7th grade student in San Francisco. “I can’t think of a good reason why laws shouldn’t let people my age choose to lower our risk of getting really sick. And vaccines not only make us safer, they keep our friends and family safe, too.”

“We appreciate Senator Wiener hearing teen voices in California and around the country,” said Crystal Strait, Board Chair, ProtectUS. “Teens have the right to protect themselves from preventable death and disability. Under existing California law, minors 12 and older may independently consent to treatment for infectious diseases. It’s just common sense that they should be able to consent to vaccines that will prevent serious illness in the first place. This bill is a natural extension of existing laws in place to prevent the spread of infectious diseases such as COVID.”

“Ensuring students have fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines is critical if we are to recover from this global pandemic,” said Alvin, a college first year and the Executive Director of GenUP. “Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is a matter of physical safety, potentially even concerning life or death. We need our students to be both safe and healthy on school campuses. Allowing students to self-consent to the vaccine will ensure all students, regardless of familial circumstances, will have the autonomy to protect their physical health and wellbeing. Let’s keep our students healthy!”

“As a pediatrician who has  specialized in the care of adolescents and young adults in the Department of Pediatrics at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital for over 40 years, I am pleased to be here to join with young people and Senator Wiener to support the Teens Choose Vaccine Act,” said Dr. Charles Irwin. “The Teens Choose Vaccine Act is an additional critical step for improving the lives of adolescents by enabling them to make healthy choices around essential vaccines that all young people should be able to get during the second decade of life without any barriers.    Adolescence is a time of learning to assume increased responsibility for health care decision making for the rest of their lives.  Laws should enhance access to care and not create barriers to getting essentia carel.” 

“I have been a registered nurse working at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland for the last 35 years,” said Wendy Bloom, pediatric nurse. “I work in an outpatient infusion center now where we care for many very vulnerable, immunocompromised patients. Some are that way due to genetic diseases that make them vulnerable like Sickle Cell Anemia and some get medications that suppress their immune systems. Those children have cancer, rheumatological, gastrointestinal, neurological or endocrinology diseases. We care for children post-bone marrow transplant.

She continued: “I have on more than one occasion spoken with teens in these circumstances that want to be vaccinated for COVID-19. Many can’t even go to school due to their state of vulnerability. I have tried to convince their skeptical parents that vaccinating them is so important to protect them. The teens totally understand it and want to get it but without parental approval they have no choice but to remain unvaccinated. I had one teenager tell me she really wanted it but felt helpless to convince her parent to allow it. Her dad could not be moved. Senator Wiener’s bill is critical to help these teens.”

“We know how important vaccines are for protecting the health of teens and their families and communities,” said San Francisco Director of Health, Dr. Grant Colfax. “Our San Francisco teens have some of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the state and nation with more than 90% fully vaccinated, and they are now getting boosted. This age group has been a critical part of our response to ending the pandemic. This legislation would help increase vaccination rates among young people 12 years and older across California.”

“Teenagers are as essential to ending this pandemic as any other member of their community, and we’re hearing loud and clear that they want to be part of the solution,” said Assemblymember Wicks. “At this critical moment in our collective efforts to curb COVID, it’s unacceptable for this lifesaving vaccine to be excluded from the decisions California teens are already empowered to make about their bodies, their health, and their future. I’m proud to co-author this bill that will right that wrong.”

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Black & Trans people more often searched during police stops in California

Officers used force against people perceived as Black at 2.6 times the rate of individuals perceived as White

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Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies making an arrest. (Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles)

SACRAMENTO – Newly data released in the fifth annual California Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board report last Friday, revealed that traffic and pedestrian stops by law enforcement agencies dropped significantly in 2020 compared to the year before.

However, the data collection effort found that Black or transgender people were still more likely to be searched than white or cisgender people by California police officers.

California Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board report: People perceived as Black were searched at 2.4 times the rate of people perceived as White

The Advisory Board collected, examined, and collated data from 18 law enforcement agencies, including the 15 largest agencies in the state on approximately 2.9 million vehicle and pedestrian stops. 

The state’s largest law enforcement agencies, including the California Highway Patrol, provided data for the report. But CHP’s data was not included in the section of the report analyzing stops based on gender identity due to a reporting error.

The data includes how law enforcement officers perceive an individual’s race or gender, even if it’s different than how the person identifies, because the officer’s perception is what drives bias. This was especially noted in data regarding those people perceived to be transgender women which were 2.5 times more likely to be searched than women who appear to be cisgender.

“This fifth annual report from the Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board provides important analysis of police stops, use of force, and the differential experiences with law enforcement of California’s diverse communities,” said Steven Raphael, Co-Chair of the Board and Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley.

“The data collection effort has been building towards and will soon achieve universal reporting of stops, uses of force, and civilian complaints from all law enforcement agencies in the state, setting a new national standard for transparency. The analysis in this year’s report breaks new ground on the experiences with law enforcement of those with mental and physical disabilities, the experiences of members of the LGBTQ+ community, in addition to the detailed analysis of stop outcomes by race, ethnicity, and gender contained in past reports,” Raphael pointed out.

“The data in this and future reports is critical to fostering dialogue between California residents and law enforcement and will also inform policy devoted to ensuring fair and bias-free policing practices. I am grateful for the tireless work of the DOJ legal and research staff as well as for the efforts and dedication of fellow board members and members of the public who participate in our meetings throughout the year,” he added.

All law enforcement agencies in California are required to commence reporting the data in 2023. The board’s work informs agencies, the state’s police office training board and state lawmakers as they change policies and seek to decrease racial disparities and bias in policing.

Los Angeles Blade file photo via LAPD

“The data in this report will be used by our profession to evaluate our practices as we continue to strive for police services that are aligned with our communities’ expectations of service,” said Chief David Swing, Co-Chair of the Board and Past-President of the California Police Chiefs Association.

“Our goal is that information in this report will result in collaborative conversations that strengthen partnerships and relationships with the communities we serve. Thank you to my colleagues on the Board and the staff of the Department of Justice for your contributions and commitment to enhancing policing in California.”

In a review of the data disclosed by the Advisory Board included:

  • Number of Stops: In 2020, 18 law enforcement agencies, including the 15 largest agencies in California, collected data on approximately 2.9 million vehicle and pedestrian stops. This represents a 26.5% reduction in comparison to the number of stops reported in 2019, most likely as a result of COVID-19.
  • Search Rates: People who were perceived as Black were searched at 2.4 times the rate of people perceived as White. Overall, officers searched 18,777 more people perceived as Black than those perceived as White. In addition, transgender women were searched at 2.5 times the rate of individuals perceived to be cisgender women.
  • Result of Stop: At the conclusion of a stop, officers must report the outcome, e.g., no action taken, warning or citation given, or arrest. For individuals perceived as Black, officers reported “no action taken” 2.3 times as often as they did for individuals perceived as White, indicating that a higher rate of those stopped who were perceived as Black were not actually engaged in unlawful activity.
  • Use of Force Rates: Officers used force against people perceived as Black at 2.6 times the rate of individuals perceived as White. In addition, officers used force against individuals perceived to have a mental health disability at 5.2 times the rate of individuals perceived not to have a disability.
  • Traffic Violation Stops: A higher proportion of traffic violation stops of people perceived as Hispanic or Black were for non-moving or equipment violations as compared to individuals who were perceived as White. For instance, the proportion of such stops initiated for window obstruction violations was nearly 2.5 times higher for people perceived as Hispanic and 1.9 times higher for people perceived as Black as compared to people perceived as White.
  • Population Comparison: Using data from the 2019 American Community Survey, people who were perceived as Black were overrepresented in the stop data by 10 percentage points and people perceived as White or Asian were underrepresented by three and nine percentage points, respectively, as compared to weighted residential population estimates.

Of all the recorded stops in 2020, 40% of people were believed to be Hispanic, 16.5% Black, 31.7% white, 5.2% Asian, and 4.7% Middle Eastern or South Asian. Black people make up just 6.5% of the state’s population. Officers stopped 445,000 more white people than Black people, but took action against 9,431 more Black people, according to the report.

Overall, Black people were most likely to be searched, detained, handcuffed and ordered to exit their vehicles. Officers were more likely to use force against Black and Hispanic people, the data showed. People perceived as Asian had a lower chance of having force used against them than white people.

“California is leading the charge in collecting and analyzing police stop data,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta. “To date, the state has provided the public with an in-depth look into nearly 9 million police stops. This information is critical and these annual reports continue to provide a blueprint for strengthening policing that is grounded in the data and the facts. I’m grateful to the RIPA Board and all the staff at the California Department of Justice for making this latest report possible. As a legislator, I was proud to co-author the bill that led to this effort and, now as Attorney General, I am committed to carrying that work forward.”

The 18 law enforcement agencies that reported 2020 RIPA data, which include three early reporting agencies, were the Bakersfield Police Department, California Highway Patrol, Davis Police Department, Fresno Police Department, Long Beach Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Unified School District Police Department, Oakland Police Department, Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, Sacramento Police Department, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, San Diego Police Department, San Francisco Police Department, and San Jose Police Department.

For more on the RIPA data, members of the public are encouraged to review the online RIPA data dashboards available on OpenJustice. The dashboards provide a unique look at the data and will be updated with the new data to help increase public access to information on the millions of stops and searches conducted across California in 2020.

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