Trump-appointed circuit judge strikes down 'unconstitutional' California law that restricted firearm advertisements

Judge Lee said California "cannot ban truthful ads about lawful firearm use among adults and minors."

Katie Daviscourt Seattle WA
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday that California's minor firearm advertising law likely violates the US Constitution, saying "The First Amendment demands more than good intentions and wishful thinking to warrant the government's muzzling of speech."

The state law which prohibits the marketing and advertising of firearms that "reasonably appear to be attractive to minors" was struck down by a three-judge panel, in which Judge Kenneth Lee wrote for the majority: "While California has a substantial interest in reducing gun violence and unlawful use of firearms by minors, its law does not 'directly' and 'materially' further either goal."

"California cannot straitjacket the First Amendment by, on the one hand, allowing minors to possess and use firearms and then, on the other hand, banning truthful advertisements about that lawful use of firearms. There is no evidence in the record that a minor in California has ever unlawfully bought a gun, let alone because of an ad. Nor has the state produced any evidence that truthful ads about lawful uses of guns—like an ad about hunting rifles in Junior Sports Magazines’ Junior Shooters—encourage illegal or violent gun use among minors," Judge Lee said, according to court documents.

"Simply put, California cannot lean on gossamers of speculation to weave an evidence-free narrative that its law curbing the First Amendment "significantly" decreases unlawful gun use among minors. The First Amendment demands more than good intentions and wishful thinking to warrant the government’s muzzling of speech," he continued.

Adding, "California's law is also more extensive than necessary, as it sweeps in truthful ads about lawful use of firearms for adults and minors alike. For instance, an advertisement directed at adults featuring a camouflage skin on a firearm might be illegal because minors may be attracted to it."

In summation, Lee said that California’s limits on advertising likely impose "an
unconstitutional burden on protected speech."

The court disagreed with California's claim that the law didn't violate the First Amendment because commercial speech regulations have more leeway, with Lee writing, "The state has made no showing that broadly prohibiting certain truthful firearm-related advertising is sufficiently tailored to significantly advance the state's goals of preventing gun violence and unlawful firearm possession among minors," according to Bearing Arms.

In addition, the panel noted that the state had failed to present any proof that a minor had ever bought a gun unlawfully in the state at a gun store, let alone that the issue was so prevalent that gun manufacturers and dealers needed to be quiet. The law forbids showing children using firearms for legal purposes, including for hunting and target practice while under adult supervision.

Judge Lee, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, concluded that the state of California "cannot ban truthful ads about lawful firearm use among adults and minors unless it can show that such an intrusion into the First Amendment will significantly further the state's interest in curtailing unlawful and violent use of firearms by minors."

The ruling comes as Democrat lawmakers across the nation seek to impose restrictive measures on firearms, with the state of California often taking the charge under Gov. Gavin Newsom's leadership. 
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