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Federal judge reverses CA ban on gun sale ads; says ‘unconstitutional’

Training at the indoor firing range on Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. (Kemberly Groue/U.S. Air Force)
September 14, 2018

On Tuesday, a federal judge reversed a California law that barred gun stores from advertising to promote the sale of handguns, ruling it is unconstitutional.

Section 26820 of the California Penal Code was reversed by Judge Troy Nunley of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. He said it violates constitutional protections on free speech, The Washington Free Beacon reported.

The law dates back to 1923. California argued the ban was necessary to prevent suicides and murders.

The case was brought by the Second Amendment Foundation, Calguns Foundation, California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees, and an assembly of firearms dealers.

In his ruling, Nunley wrote: “California may not accomplish its goals by violating the First Amendment. Accordingly, [the law] is unconstitutional on its face.”

The state maintained that preventing the advertisement of handguns narrowed the odds that impulsive individuals would buy a handgun and harm themselves.

Nunley contended that the state cannot use this argument to restrict constitutionally protected commercial speech. Nunley wrote:

“The Government may not restrict speech that persuades adults, who are neither criminals nor suffer from mental illness, from purchasing a legal and constitutionally protected product, merely because it distrusts their personality trait and the decisions that personality trait may lead them to make later down the road. Moreover, in the effort to restrict impulsive individuals from purchasing handguns, the Government has restricted speech to all adults, irrespective of whether they have this personality trait. Therefore, the Government impermissibly seeks to achieve its goals through the indirect means of restricting certain speech by certain speakers based on the fear that a certain subset of the population with a particular personality trait could potentially make what the Government contends is a bad decision.”

The plaintiffs celebrated the win.

Brandon Combs, executive director of the Calguns Foundation said: “Today, the court correctly ruled that the First Amendment protects truthful, non-misleading speech about handguns protected under the Second Amendment. People have a fundamental, individual right to buy handguns, and licensed dealers have a right to tell people where they can lawfully acquire those handguns. Today’s ruling means that the government cannot prevent people, or gun dealers, from talking about constitutionally protected instruments and conduct.”

Alan M. Gottlieb, The Second Amendment Foundation founder said: “This decision will serve as a reminder that firearms dealers have First Amendment rights as well as Second Amendment rights, even in California. The bottom line is that a state cannot legislate political correctness at the expense of a fundamental, constitutionally enumerated right. We are delighted to offer financial support of this case.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office said it was reviewing the ruling but did not disclose whether or not they would appeal it.