Earlier this week, a 95-year old California law that had banned handgun ads at gun shops was ruled to be “unconstitutional on its face” by a federal judge, whom also called the state out for its “paternalistic” assumption that its residents can’t make their own decisions.
According to Fox News the 1923 law stipulated that “No handgun or imitation handgun, or placard advertising the sale or other transfer thereof, shall be displayed in any part of [a gun store] where it can readily be seen from the outside.”
Michael Baryla, owner of the Tracy Rifle and Pistol indoor pistol range and gun shop in San Joaquin County, filed suit in 2014 after the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Firearms cited him for the full-color window graphic that contained pictures of handguns. Guns.com explains the shop’s proprietor was given two unpalatable options: remove the $3,000 custom graphic or pay a fine. Three other gun stores also joined in the suit. UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh, of the Volokh Conspiracy legal column hosted at reason.com, would aid the gun shop owners’ defense, delivering arguments on their behalf in 2016.
“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,” U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley of Sacramento said in his ruling, taking issue with California’s assertion that the advertisements would lead to increased suicides and crime as they would cause people with “impulsive personality traits” to buy more handguns. Nunley went on to state, “[I]n the effort to restrict impulsive individuals from purchasing handguns, the Government has restricted speech to all adults, irrespective of whether they have this personality trait.”
Perhaps the important part of the ruling is that “California may not accomplish its goals by violating the First Amendment.”