Court Keeps California Handgun Ad Ban in Place

Thursday, February 25, 2016
(photo: George Frey, Bloomberg via Getty Images)

By William Dotinga, Courthouse News Service


SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A Ninth Circuit panel on Tuesday refused to set aside a California law banning depictions of handguns on gun store advertisements.


Four gun dealers challenged California's decades-old ban on displaying handgun ads "that are visible from outside their place of business" in Federal Court in 2014. The gun shops claimed the penal code section violated their First and Second Amendment rights.


A federal judge refused to issue a preliminary injunction the following year, finding the ban's public-interest benefits outweighed the gun shops' constitutional interests.


The gun shops took their case to the Ninth Circuit, arguing earlier this month that California's position that the ban stopped impulse buys of handguns was "highly speculative" and inadequate to infringe the dealers constitutional rights of free speech and to buy and sell firearms.


In a 3-page unpublished memorandum issued Tuesday, the Ninth Circuit panel affirmed the trial court's denial of an injunction.


The panel said that U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley did not abuse his discretion in finding the gun shops were not entitled to the "extraordinary remedy" of an injunction, since the magnitude of potential harm faced by the dealers "is minimal due to the commercial nature of the speech and the limited scope of the restriction."


The panel continued, "The district court further found that the balance of equities does not tip in plaintiffs' favor where, as here, serious public-safety risks are implicated and the harm to plaintiffs is relatively slight. Again, we see no abuse of discretion."


While California's ban applies to depictions of handguns, gun shop owners remain free to advertise rifles and other firearms at will.


To Learn More:

Facebook Bans Private Gun Sales, Sending Gun Traders Scrambling to Find Online Platforms (by Dustin Volz and Julia Edwards, Reuters)

Italians Object to U.S. Rifle Ad Using Michelangelo’s David (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)

Internet is Home to an Arms Bazaar with Guns for All—Even Felons (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

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