"Liberal Terminator" red-flagged by California prosecutors

"Liberal Terminator" red-flagged by California prosecutors
Photo Courtesy of the National Shooting Sports Foundation

A California man who branded himself the “Liberal Terminator” and used social media to tell the world of his fervent desire for a race war and twisted fantasies about torturing and killing black people is now officially barred from legally buying firearms in the state for two years. A San Diego judge approved a Gun Violence Restraining Order against Timothy Caruthers last week, rejecting the argument by Caruthers’ attorney that the man was only exercising his First Amendment rights.

“The Court concludes the purchase of a semi-automatic handgun, combined with the evidence of very egregious racial threats, advocacy of violence towards minority groups, vulgar speech, speech that promotes killing other minority groups are not considered constitutionally protected speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” the court’s order read.

Under the social media handle the “Liberal Terminator,” Caruthers made threats against Black people, Latinos, Muslims, Jewish people, the LGBTQ community, and women, prosecutors said.

“Essentially, anyone who is non-white, except for liberals,” Deputy City Attorney Joshua Kay said, according to CBS8 San Diego.

Kay added that Caruthers expressed his desire to kill Black people and idolized white nationalist Dylann Roof—who murdered nine people in a 2015 Charleston church shooting.

In one post, Caruthers allegedly said, “All n—–s need to die. I don’t know how much longer I can contain my anger. I want a race war to start, so I can kill Black people. …I’m not even joking.”

Police used that post and many others just as awful to pursue a GVRO after Caruthers was caught illegally possessing a handgun in July of last year.

Caruthers sounds like a pathetic excuse for a human being, but then, he’d apparently like to see a good portion of my friends and family dead, so I’ll acknowledge my bias. Still, I’m wondering why prosecutors didn’t actually pursue criminal charges against Caruthers for his threats if, as the judge declared, they fell beyond the protection of the First Amendment. Maybe because the prosecutor didn’t believe Caruthers’ words had crossed the line into a criminal offense?

“So, all of these threats made against Black people, Hispanics, Muslims, with a combination of purchasing this firearm and ammunition constitutes a recent threat to others,” Kay argued, according to court minutes.

“It’s not like anyone is trying to say you can’t say what you want, or you can’t do what you want. It’s saying if you’re going to say these things and carry a gun around in your car, that’s not the kind of person that should probably possess a gun,” Kay added.

See, that’s a problem for me. What the prosecutor is arguing is that your Second Amendment rights can be stripped from you based on your abhorrent, yet protected, speech. Kay specifically argued that Caruthers could say all of those things, but that he “probably” shouldn’t be allowed to possess a gun because of them.

That’s not how our rights work. We don’t give up or have our Fourth Amendment rights stripped from us because of unpopular points of view. Our nation’s history is replete with unpopular figures invoking their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and the Fifth Amendment still protects individuals who are being prosecuted for “obscene” speech unprotected by the First. Yet under red flag laws like California’s Gun Violence Restraining Order, despicable words alone can be enough to divest someone of their legal ability to own a firearm for at least two years.

I know, I know. The judge declared that Caruthers’ speech was outside the First Amendment too. But that’s an easy call for the judge to make, because it has no legal bearing on his decision. If the prosecutor had charged Caruthers with making terroristic threats, harassment, or another crime of that nature, then the judge’s opinion would carry some actual legal heft. As it is his declaration is merely a decorative flourish on his edict barring Caruthers from legally owning a gun.

Before prosecutors, gun control activists, and anti-gun politicians like Gavin Newsom pat themselves on the back, though, they should at least consider what happens next. What exactly has been accomplished here? A judge found that there’s a reasonable chance Caruthers poses a danger to himself or others (mostly others, it sounds like), and because of that he… can’t legally buy a gun for two years.

Is Caruthers still able to get behind the wheel of a car? You bet he is. Can he own sharp knives? Of course he can! He can buy gasoline, glass bottles, and matches. He can buy enough rope to make a dozen nooses for his intended victims. The only thing he can’t do is legally own a gun. But does anybody honestly believe that Timmy isn’t going to be able to illegally acquire a gun if he sets his warped little mind to it?

As gun owners, we tend to focus our complaints about red flag laws on things like the lack of due process, but we shouldn’t ignore the fact that things like Gun Violence Restraining Orders don’t actually stop truly dangerous people from doing dangerous things. They allow prosecutors to say they “did something” without actually having to prove that a crime was committed, they allow politicians to say they “did something” to take guns away from dangerous people, but they do nothing to truly prevent a dangerous person from illegally getting ahold of a gun or using something other than a firearm as a murder weapon.

The proper venue for Timothy Caruthers was in criminal, not civil court. Let a judge or jury decide if Caruthers vile thoughts and desires crossed the threshold into actual threats, but the prosecution’s assertion that words protected by the First Amendment, no matter how awful, can still result in the state denying you your Second Amendment rights is an argument that should not be allowed to win out, even with an assist from a judge.