Owning a gun in California is getting trickier by the day. As it is, California does not recognize any out-of-state licenses and continues to limit the kind of handguns that can legally be sold in the state.
Recently a handful of licensed gun retailers ran afoul of a 1923 California statue banning the display of images and ads of handguns—but not shotguns or rifles, according to a recent press release from the Firearms Policy Coalition. But the four gun retailers are firing back with a lawsuit against California Attorney General Kamala Harris. As one plaintiff explained in the press release:
“I run one of the most heavily regulated and inspected businesses in existence, but it’s still illegal for me to show customers that I sell handguns until after they walk in the door,” explained Michael Baryla, the owner of Tracy Rifle & Pistol. “That’s about as silly a law as you could imagine, even here in California.”
While California gun dealers cannot display even the word ‘handgun’ at their stores to passersby, adjacent businesses and anti-gun protesters are not prohibited from doing as much. The court filings argue that the law operates as unconstitutional speaker, content, and viewpoint-based discrimination, in addition to having other legal problems. …
Lead counsel Bradley Benbrook said about the lawsuit, “The First Amendment prevents the government from telling businesses it disfavors that they can't engage in truthful advertising. This case follows a long line of Supreme Court cases protecting such disfavored businesses from that type of censorship.”
Though the case doesn’t claim a Second Amendment violation, plaintiffs do argue that commercial advertisement of constitutionally protected products and services…is especially clearly protected under the First Amendment.
WND’s Bob Unruh reports that the Second Amendment Foundation is supporting the suit against the ban:
“A state cannot legislate political correctness at the expense of a fundamental, constitutionally protected civil right,” said SAF founder Alan M. Gottlieb. “SAF is delighted to offer its financial support of this case.”
It would “serve as a reminder that firearms dealers have First Amendment rights as well as Second Amendment rights,” he said. “Even in California.”
Also supporting the action was the California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees. …
The complaint says California law “prevents firearms dealers from advertising even the most basic commercial information – ‘Handguns for Sale’ – at their place of business” and that “violates the First Amendment in multiple ways.”
While California isn’t alone in banning handgun displays– Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington, D.C. also ban them according to the Firearms Policy Coalition—the Golden State does appear to be the only state enforcing the display ban.
Citizens and lawmakers should ensure that laws in their states protect basic, constitutionally guaranteed rights—whether or not they’re gun owners. After all, once we tolerate state officials going after businesses for selling legal products they don’t happen to like, it won’t be long before they come after the rest of our businesses and rights, too.