Gun Stores Challenge California Law Barring Handgun Advertisements

Stock Photo of the Consitution of the United States and Feather Quill220px-CriminologygunglockThere is an interesting first amendment case developing in California where gun store owners are challenging a California Penal Code section 26820, a law from 1923 that bans gun stores from putting up signs advertising the sale of handguns. Shotguns can be advertised but not handguns. Four dealers are claiming that their freedom of speech is being curtailed on an arbitrary basis. They have a point.

The lawsuit in the Eastern District of California in Sacramento names California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Stephen Lindley, who heads the state Department of Justice’s Bureau of Firearms.

As shown by Citizens United, there has been a shift in favor of speech rights of corporations though there remain questions over the difference between commercial and noncommercial speech. Other states like Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington, D.C. have such laws which reportedly are rarely enforced.

Standing does not appear to be a serious question. Tracy Rifle and Pistol, a gun store and firing range in San Joaquin County, was recently cited for having pictures of three handguns in window signs that could be seen from outside the store.

The bar on gun advertising generally is difficult square with the first amendment. The isolation of handguns add a layer of arbitrariness. This is magnified by the fact that the signs are advertising products at the heart of an individual right to own handguns.

The challengers rely on cases like Sorrell that state “the ‘fear that people would make bad decisions if given truthful information’ cannot justify content-based burdens on speech.” Sorrell v. IMS Health Inc., 564 U.S. ___, 131 S. Ct. 2653, 2670-71 (2011) (“The choice ‘between the dangers of suppressing information, and the dangers of its misuse if it is freely available’ is one that ‘the First Amendment makes for us.’”)(quoting Virginia Bd. of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, Inc., 425 U.S. 748, 770 (1976)).

In my view, the challengers should win, which could lead to challenges in these other jurisdictions.

Here is the complaint.

37 thoughts on “Gun Stores Challenge California Law Barring Handgun Advertisements”

  1. I agree that the gun shops should be able to advertise their wares, but I wonder if the same could be said of sex shops displaying photographs of sex toys. Perhaps that should be considered the same from a constitutional point of view.

  2. I hear politicians suggesting a new Constitution Convention because ours is outdated. Fight this! Once the libs, who advocate this, get started the Bill of Rights is in jeopardy. I listened to a Brit telling us how fortunate we were to have our Bill of Rights. If there is a need for change, the process is very clear. I’m certain any limitation to the Bill of Rights would never get through the amendment process. If you had a convention, the whole Constitution could be rewritten. Watch who wants this.

  3. Paul, a pregnancy can be aborted without medical intervention; it can happen through spontaneous abortion – miscarriage. I am certain that the pages removed by the right wingers were for the sake of religious needs, not for the sake of correcting the biological sciences..

    1. Lloyd – I live in Gilbert and am a little more familiar with the situation than you are.

  4. Lloyd Blankfien – bankster – “I think it’s obvious that the right is far more inclined to limit free speech than the left….”

    And this makes you feel good about the left?

  5. I think it is far more likely that both right and left are far more likely to limit free speech than the libertarians.

  6. Regarding my statement: And maybe banning gay marriage, banning ALL abortion procedures or strictly limiting birth control access is more along the lines of GOP free speech support? I should have said freedoms support…My oversight…

    Did you see the local AZ case where right wingers want to remove pages from a biology text because it mentions abortion? Those certainly aren’t ‘liberals’ on that school board….

    http://www.azfamily.com/news/Gilbert-school-board-votes-to-rip-abortion-page-out-of-text-book-280884892.html

    Or maybe this about the right wing gives you a warm fuzzy about freedom of speech:

    ThinkProgress reported that a Missouri high school had banned Kurt Vonnegut’s classic novel Slaughterhouse Five because religious residents complained that it taught principles contrary to the Bible.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/aug/24/tea-party-banning-books

    I think it’s obvious that the right is far more inclined to limit free speech than the left….

    1. Lloyd – the reason for taking the pages from the biology text is that they have nothing to do with biology.

  7. OMG, JT, another libertarian point you agree with?
    This time on an issue from the Right/Conservative coincident branch of libertarianism.
    Be careful, you might go full libertarian, and won’t that just be embarrassing.

  8. Jim22

    The 2nd Amendment doesn’t talk about lots of things, including bazookas, Uzis, tactical nuclear weapons, etc. It does talk in an indirect way about the government issuing regulations (“well regulated militia”). I’m a gun owner, but I sure don’t want everyone running around with Uzis on their hip.

    That being said, the law in question should be tossed. A clear violation of the 1st Amendment.

    Lloyd B, I look forward to seeing billboards advertising adult sex toys after the gun advertising law is struck down. Unless the courts thinks that adult sex toys are more dangerous than guns. But Jim has a point that termination of a pregnancy is not really free speech issue. At least until corporations learn now to get pregnant.

  9. Lloyd Blankfien – bankster, I must have missed the part in the first amendment where abortion was free speech. You have some very good deflecting skills.

  10. It’s the left’s fault!!! It’s Obama’s fault!!! Right….And the GOP dominated Supreme Court ruled that protests are illegal on the grounds of the Supreme Court.

    The regulation bans activities on the court’s grounds or building such as picketing, speech-making, marching, vigils or religious services “that involve the communication or expression of views or grievances, engaged in by one or more persons, the conduct of which is reasonably likely to draw a crowd or onlookers.”

    Or maybe the GOP attempts to ban flag burning is more in line with your ‘liberals hate free speech!!!!’ screed.

    During each term of Congress from 1995 to 2005, the proposed amendment was passed by the House of Representatives, but not the Senate, falling four votes short on two occasions in the upper house.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_Desecration_Amendment

    May I remind you that those were ALL GOP house votes.

    And maybe banning gay marriage, banning ALL abortion procedures or strictly limiting birth control access is more along the lines of GOP free speech support?

    Please put away your liberal horror stories and look in the GOP mirror for enemy to free speech stories.

    1. Lloyd – the CA legislature is completely controlled by the Democrats. It won’t be in the next session, but it is now. Let’s just deal with the twits in CA.

  11. Nick – you are right.

    Unfortunately, there are many politicians who also see the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments as needlessly expansive.

  12. issac – “Reasonable weapon, no automatics, no assault weapons, no flame throwers, no grenades, etc.; every weapon registered, gun safety course mandatory for ownership, all owners must have no criminal background, must be sane and responsible, must have a certificate for every gun, kind of like owning a car. The 2nd amendment will be honored and the American society will have risen an IQ point or two.”

    I might be wrong but where is any of that stated in the second amendment?

  13. Tobacco companies can’t advertise on TV, and that seems insensitive to the tobacco companies free speech rights. And what’s with those warning on tobacco products? Adult video stores should be able to have large billboards because people’s right to see the best XXX is infringed. And don’t get me started on not being able to see billboards and large signs in windows selling adult toys and games. Seems unfair to the honest purveyor of American made adult products and it sullies the concept of free market, free speech ideals.. I am also offended that “currently, four states—Vermont, Alaska, Hawaii, and Maine have prohibited billboards.” And why are our beloved spirits makers forced to do this: “beverage alcohol marketers must restrict their advertising to media where at least 71.6% of the audience is expected to be old enough to buy alcohol legally. ” Seems unfair that young people can’t get an early education on what to drink.

  14. Reasonable weapon, no automatics, no assault weapons, no flame throwers, no grenades, etc.; every weapon registered, gun safety course mandatory for ownership, all owners must have no criminal background, must be sane and responsible, must have a certificate for every gun, kind of like owning a car. The 2nd amendment will be honored and the American society will have risen an IQ point or two.

  15. I do think the legislature in CA will change with this election. They make back off this without a legal challenge.

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