California’s efforts to run roughshod over the Second Amendment by violating the First is hitting a wall in the courts.
Readers may remember that in 2022, PT1st reported that the state had passed AB 2571, which prohibits the marketing of firearms or related products in a manner that “reasonably appears to be attractive to minors.” This law banned advertising for youth groups that promote firearms as a sport, with safety instruction every step of the way. Nominally intended to tackle soaring rates of gun violence, the law had only succeeded in taking down those youth groups and sporting activities.
California tried to inoculate itself against legal challenges by passing another law that would make plaintiffs who attempt to test the constitutionality of California’s strict gun laws in court and then lose to have to pay all attorneys’ fees and costs. So, not only was the state going to trample over plaintiffs’ constitutional rights, but they were going to make them suffer for challenging them. Things got dicey for California when the state Attorney General Rob Bonta said he “won’t defend the validity” of the law, a step in the right direction.
In September, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit enjoined enforcement of the state’s ban on firearm advertisements to minors, holding that it was likely to violate the First Amendment in the upcoming case, Junior Sports Magazines, Inc. v. Bonta. The district court had denied plaintiff’s request for a preliminary injunction, but the Ninth Circuit, no conservative bastion itself, reversed the lower court’s ruling.
In that decision, the Ninth Circuit held that AB 2571 “does not directly and materially advance California’s substantial interests in reducing gun violence and the unlawful use of firearms by minors.”
Circuit Judge Kenneth Lee writes, “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 … Junior Sports Magazines has shown a likelihood of success on the merits …”
In sum, the state Attorney General has declared he won’t defend punitive measures meant to punish constitutionally minded litigants.
California’s gun-advertising restrictions have been blocked, pending a final decision by the Ninth Circuit. And the Ninth Circuit itself has stated that firearm sporting enthusiasts are likely to win on the merits. PT1st is pleased to see this sharp turn in fortunes for California and we hope these events encourage the state to reverse course.