In a small but significant smackdown of a California gun control law gone too far, a federal court judge this week struck down a section of the state penal code that prohibits handgun advertising at gun stores that would be visible from outside the store.
It was a victory for the plaintiffs and the groups that supported them, including the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), and for the First Amendment. U.S. District Court Judge Troy Nunley in Sacramento handed down the ruling, which declared that Section 26820 of the California Penal Code is “unconstitutional on its face” for prohibiting handgun advertising, or even facsimiles of handguns that could be seen outside the store. According to CBS News, that statute dated back to 1923, which offers an indication of just how long the Golden State has been adopting gun control laws.
The Section states, “No handgun or imitation handgun, or placard advertising the sale or other transfer thereof, shall be displayed in any part of the premises where it can readily be seen from the outside.”
The case involved Tracy Rifle and Pistol (TRAP), Ten Percent Firearms, Sacramento Black Rifle, Inc., and PRK Arms. SAF was joined in supporting the case by the Calguns Foundation and California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees.
The law was ostensibly designed to prevent crime and suicide, but the court noted that the state failed to show that the statute “has any effect on handgun suicide or crime.” Further, the court ruled that California “has restricted disfavored speech without acknowledging the efficacy of policy choices that do not burden speech.”
“A state cannot legislate political correctness at the expense of a fundamental, constitutionally-delineated civil right,” noted SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “We were delighted to offer financial support to this case.”
“If you are someone who is providing a constitutionally protected product or service, you should be able to communicate that to people in the same way a bookseller should be able to advertise they sell Bibles and Qurans,” Brandon Combs, executive director of The Calguns Foundation, observed in a statement. “Dealers should be able to say they sell handguns.”
Judge Nunley also stated in his 15-page ruling that, “California may not accomplish its goals by violating the First Amendment.”