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Federal Judge Strikes Down 95-Year-Old California Ban on Storefront Handgun Ads
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=7913"><span class="small">Jonathan Stempel, Reuters</span></a>   
Thursday, 13 September 2018 08:30

"U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley in Sacramento, the state's capital, said the law was 'unconstitutional on its face' because it violated dealers' commercial speech rights under the First Amendment."

A 736-page California gun law book is on display along with guns at Aegis Trading Enterprises gun shop in Burbank, California, U.S., December 19, 2012. (photo: Gene Blevins/Reuters)
A 736-page California gun law book is on display along with guns at Aegis Trading Enterprises gun shop in Burbank, California, U.S., December 19, 2012. (photo: Gene Blevins/Reuters)

Federal Judge Strikes Down 95-Year-Old California Ban on Storefront Handgun Ads

By Jonathan Stempel, Reuters

13 September 18


federal judge has struck down a 95-year-old California law banning firearms dealers from placing ads for handguns or images of handguns on their storefronts.

In a decision made public on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley in Sacramento, the state’s capital, said the law was “unconstitutional on its face” because it violated dealers’ commercial speech rights under the First Amendment.

State officials said allowing the ads could spur people with “impulsive personality traits” to buy more handguns, and the law advanced California’s interests in reducing handgun crime and handgun suicides.

But Nunley found the law too narrow, saying dealers could still use print or radio ads or even display large neon signs trumpeting “GUNS GUNS GUNS.” It was also too broad, by restricting speech to all adults regardless of their personality traits, he ruled.

“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,” the judge wrote.

Nunley was appointed by former U.S. President Barack Obama.

The office of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra had defended the law, which is part of the state’s penal code.

Officials from the attorney general did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Nunley’s decision is a victory for Tracy Rifle and Pistol, Ten Percent Firearms and other dealers that said the law infringed their right to display “truthful, nonmisleading” handgun ads, or risk fines or license revocations.

“It reaffirms the trend in the law that the Supreme Court has been very clear on, that government cannot restrict truthful advertising because it fears that law-abiding citizens will make decisions it doesn’t approve of,” Brad Benbrook, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in an interview on Wednesday.

The case is Tracy Rifle and Pistol LLC et al v Harris et al, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, No. 14-02626.

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+2 # economagic 2018-09-13 11:18
With every right comes a corresponding responsibility, ESPECIALLY where rights of corporations are concerned. Not all "speech" is protected by the First Amendment and never has been. "Commercial speech," more aptly called advertising, PR, or propaganda, calls for even greater scrutiny because it consists not merely of facts and opinions but of scientifically engineered persuasion for monetary gain. It is also due greater scrutiny than any speech of individual humans because its sole purpose is profit, which is amoral at best and arguably immoral in certain cases involving profit obtained through indisputable harm to individual humans or to society. Not all goods are created equal; not all economic goods are actually good except in the unacceptably narrow sense of monetary gain for the seller at the expense of existential costs to the buyer or to society as a whole.

Neither Adam Smith nor his forerunners nor his followers until the mid-20th century disputed any of the above. It was only the use of nuclear weapons to scare the Soviet Union into not developing its own (?!?) that led to a new and debased notion of morality based on monetary gain to the exclusion of virtually all else. The "sages through the ages" have taught that great material wealth is often accompanied by moral bankruptcy. Morality is not the property of any Belief System or of all of them. Infants have been shown to have a sense of right and wrong before they learn to talk.
+3 # economagic 2018-09-13 11:48
Even granting the morality of encouraging people to buy certain goods designed for the sole purpose of killing people, Judge Nunley's reasoning, unclear in general, is surely invalid in claiming that the law is both too narrow and too broad seemingly a contradiction in terms.

The counterargument , of course, is that the law is too narrow in one aspect or dimension and too broad in another, but neither part of this double claim is sound. There is no legal requirement that a law prohibiting certain "speech" via one medium must prohibit it via ALL media, and indeed such narrow prohibitions have been judged to be lawful (e.g., with respect to tobacco ads). The judge's claim that the law is too broad in prohibiting certain "speech" to the public at large (as opposed to prohibiting it only to individuals with certain personality traits, an impossibility) is a red herring. The issue is not to whom the speech is addressed, but whether the "speech" via a medium that cannot discriminate as to whom it reaches is permissible in the first place. Again there is precedent for outright bans on certain "speech" via certain media for that reason.
0 # ER444 2018-09-13 13:18
Thank you Economagic, a brilliant argument!!!