Campus Notebook: Unattended gun in Capitol bathroom need not concern the public, Capitol Police argued

“Plaintiff’s disclosure to the CQ Roll Call reporter also did not address a matter of public concern because it could not be ‘fairly considered as relating to any matter of political, social, or other concern to the community,’” Scindian wrote. Scindian also argued Breiterman was not protected by the First Amendment because she spoke to the reporter in her official capacity.

Scindian said the photo — of an unattended firearm in a public building with some of the most integral individuals in the nation’s government — was not something the public need be concerned about. She argued, in part, that because the gun was found in a restricted area within the Capitol complex, the incident should be kept within the department and concealed from public consumption.

“The information Plaintiff provided to the reporter concerned an internal Department matter that did not implicate public interest,” Scindian wrote. “The gun that was discovered in a CVC bathroom on January 29, 2015 was located in a restricted area of the facility. Only authorized personnel would have access to that area. The gun was quickly recovered by USCP officials and its owner was identified in short order.”

Roy Gutterman, a Syracuse University professor who specializes in First Amendment law, disagrees with the department’s contention.

“I can’t imagine a clearer case of a matter of public interest than finding a gun in a Capitol Hill bathroom, whether it’s a visitors center or a secured hallway,” Gutterman said. “You can’t get any clearer than that as far as a matter of public interest.”

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