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Free Speech Win for Youth Shooters and Firearms Industry

California's Ban on Gun Ads Directed at Youth Have Affected All Gun Media and Gun Companies Nationwide.

Free Speech Win for Youth Shooters and Firearms Industry

As the battle to save the Second Amendment seems to heat up on a daily basis, a federal court on Wednesday handed a big First Amendment victory to California youth and those in the firearms industry. On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit unanimously overturned a lower court decision in Junior Sports Magazine Inc. v. Bonta, ruling that California’s law banning the marketing of firearms to minors likely violates the Constitution. The case was filed by several youth shooting organizations and several gun-rights groups, including the California Rifle & Pistol Association.

The law, passed last year and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, prohibits the advertising of any “firearm-related product in a manner that is designed, intended or reasonably appears to be attractive to minors.” Plaintiffs argued that the law was unconstitutional under both the First and Fourteenth Amendments. In Wednesday’s ruling, Circuit Judge Kenneth K. Lee expressed dismay at the law, flatly stating that the First Amendment demands more than “good intentions.”

“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,” Judge Lee wrote in the ruling. “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.”

Judge Lee didn’t stop there, however: “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.”

Judge Lee further explained that the California law takes in way too much territory.

“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,” he wrote. “For instance, an advertisement directed at adults featuring a camouflage skin on a firearm might be illegal because minors may be attracted to it.”

Attorney Chuck Michel, president and general counsel for the California Rifle & Pistol Association, said in a released statement that while this ruling doesn’t end the case, it was the outcome his organization was hoping for.

“Newsom’s efforts to eliminate youth shooting activities, hunting and the next generation of Second Amendment advocates who understand their rights has been stopped again,” Michel said. “This is another example of legislative overreach and the politicians’ willingness to trample on constitutional rights.” 

The case now goes back down to the U.S. District Court, which must still issue a final decision on the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction.


About the Author

Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for nearly 25 years. 


If you have any thoughts or comments on this article, we’d love to hear them. Email us at FirearmsNews@Outdoorsg.com.

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