Federal judge overturns California’s 95-year-old ban on handgun advertising

Federal judge overturns California’s 95-year-old ban on handgun advertising
A federal judge in California struck down a 1923 law that banned firearms dealers from using handgun images for advertising on storefronts. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A California federal judge has overturned a 95-year-old law that banned firearms dealers from using handgun images for advertising on storefronts.

“California may not accomplish its goals by violating the First Amendment,” U.S. District Court Judge Troy L. Nunley wrote in his 15-page decision, KOVR-TV reported.

The decision came as good news for the firearms dealers who filed the lawsuit after they were cited for violating the 1923 law. The law was originally passed in hopes of curbing suicides and other violent acts.

Rob Adams, the owner of Sacramento Black Rifle Shop, told KOVR that he had been unaware that his logo, which had a handgun embedded into the “r”, was in violation of the law.

“It’s just an archaic law that nobody knew was on the books,” Adams said.

After four years of litigation, the statute was struck down as unconstitutional on Tuesday.

“Previous to today, we weren’t allowed to use any type of literature pictures or anything outside within the public’s view,” Adams said.

What’s the story?

It all started when Sacramento Black Rifle Shop, Tracy Rifle and Pistol, along with other licensed gun dealers filed a lawsuit against the state, according to the Sacramento Bee.

The lawsuit claimed the sellers had been stopped from using “truthful, non-misleading material advertising the sale of handguns at their places of business” by California Penal Code section 26820.

For example, Tracy Rifle and Pistol was cited by the state’s Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms for violating the 1923 law in September 2014.

The dealer had four large decals on its storefront’s windows. Of those, three depicted handguns and the fourth showed a rifle, all of which could be lawfully bought inside the store.

What did the lawyers say?

Brad Benbrook, one of the lawyers representing the firearms dealers, said he was pleased with the ruling.

“This is an important victory for our clients and for the First Amendment. Judge Nunley decided that the State could not justify its censorship of our clients, and we are delighted with the opinion,” Benbrook said in a statement to the Bee.  “As the court explained today, the government cannot censor commercial speech in a paternalistic effort to keep citizens from making unpopular choices — or choices the government doesn’t approve — if they are told the truth.”

What did the state say?

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office told the newspaper that it was reviewing Nunley’s ruling.

The state has 30 days to file an appeal.