On September 11th, 2018 Federal Judge Troy Nunley determined a California law prohibiting gun store owners from putting up handgun related signs unconstitutional and in violation of First Amendment rights.
The law (California Penal Code 26820) first enacted in 1923, kept gun store owners from displaying signs advertising the sale of pistols, but did not prohibit advertising for rifles or shotguns.
Before the ruling, gun store owners were routinely cited by California inspectors for advertising handguns, or even having handgun shaped signs.
The charge was led by The Calguns Foundation, California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees, and the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF).
Judge Nunley explained the 95 year old law was unreasonable, under-inclusive, and the California Government, “ … has not demonstrated that § 26820 would have any effect on handgun suicide or violence.”
California government officials maintained its theory the law helped prevent “ … people with ‘impulsive personality traits’ from purchasing a handgun.”
Judge Nunely was not swayed by this argument saying, “[T]he Supreme Court has rejected this highly paternalistic approach to limiting speech, holding that the Government may not achieve its policy objectives through the indirect means of restraining certain speech by certain speakers. California may not accomplish its goals by violating the First Amendment . . . . § 26820 is unconstitutional on its face.”
The Federal Judge went on to say, “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.”
Alan M. Gottlieb, Executive Vice President and founder of SAF 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 Plaintiffs, represented by lead counsel Brad Benbrook and Stephen Duvernay of the Sacramento-based Benbrook Law Group, began the lawsuit in 2014 and expect the decision to be appealed by Attorney General Becerra to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
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