Texas gun rights advocates have been going at it with Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen for months now. The Speaker is no fan of constitutional carry and kept a bill to legalize permitless carry bottled up in the House.
Bonnen then used campaigning tactics by a Texas Gun Rights activist as an excuse to kill the bill last month. But that was just a fig leaf to euthanize a bill he opposed anyway (read our post on the topic here). The media dutifully provided the cover Bonnen was looking for.
Now, Lone Star Gun Rights has filed suit against Bonnen for blocking their access to his Facebook page (where they’ve tried to counter his dubious claims about the constitutional carry bill). Does that sound crazy? Tell that to a New York thee-judge Appeals Court panel that ruled President Trump couldn’t block readers from his social media accounts.
Here’s Lone Star Gun Rights’ press release announcing the lawsuit . . .
Austin-based grassroots gun rights organization, Lone Star Gun Rights, has filed a lawsuit in Federal Court against Texas House Speaker, Dennis Bonnen, of House District 25 (Angleton/Lake Jackson). The organization is claiming that in his official capacity as both the Representative of District 25 and as Speaker, Dennis Bonnen has silenced critics on his public Facebook page, where he constantly gives legislative updates to his followers.
At the beginning of April, news broke that Speaker Bonnen was proclaiming HB357 (also known as Constitutional Carry) “dead” after a grassroots organizer was utilizing campaign-style tactics to raise awareness about the bill being stalled in committee. Taking to Facebook on April 6th, the Speaker stated that the various grassroots organizations “want anyone – including criminals – to be able to carry a gun without a license,” giving the impression to anyone not familiar with the contents of HB357 that the bill would legalize the carrying of handguns by convicted felons. A couple of days following that post, the Speaker doubled down on this deliberate misstatement by saying on The Chad Hasty Show that Constitutional Carry was “an issue that would allow a criminal the ability to carry a gun.”
As there is no official Speaker of the House Facebook page, and all official updates from the Speaker’s Office are posted only on his campaign Facebook page, LSGR and several members left comments to voice their disapproval of the Speaker’s actions. This resulted in an abundance of members, including those who operate the LSGR Facebook page, being banned from interacting on the Speaker’s page. This also resulted in their comments being deleted, leaving only the one side of the argument to be seen by the 15,321 Facebook users that follow the Speaker’s page, as well as the countless number of people who do not.
Lone Star Gun Rights as an organization, along with two individual plaintiffs, are suing Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen in Federal Court for 1st and 14th Amendment violations for silencing his critics in what senior Courts have concluded to be a public forum. The suit seeks an injunction against the Speaker to unban all Facebook users who have been banned thus far, and reinforce the already established precedent that an elected official may not silence critics in a public forum. No punitive damages are being sought; however, the plaintiffs are seeking reimbursement of legal fees.