Ban of Handgun Ad Signs Survives Challenge

     SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – A federal judge has denied a preliminary injunction request against California’s ban on displaying signs depicting handguns outside gun shops.
     U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley denied Tracy Rifle’s motion for preliminary injunction against California’s law against gun stores displaying signs depicting handguns.
     “The instant injunction has the character of a mandatory injunction in that it seeks to alter the status quo by preventing California from enforcing” its ban on gun signs, Nunley wrote.
     Nunley said courts have to be “‘extremely cautious'” when issuing a preliminary injunction that “‘goes well beyond maintaining the status quo.'”
     “Plaintiffs seek an injunction that would prevent enforcement of [the gun sign ban] across California,” Nunley wrote. “Therefore, the court takes the requisite caution in deciding against altering the status quo.”
     He continued: “With due consideration to the free speech considerations raised by plaintiffs, which are also of public interest, a cautionary approach that favors denial greater serves the public interest than granting the injunction.”
     Four gun dealers challenged the constitutionality of California’s decades-old ban on displaying handgun ads “that are visible from outside their place of business” in 2014.
     The gun dealers said they “have a constitutionally protected interest in conveying truthful commercial information about handguns to the public, and the public has a corresponding interest in receiving that information.”
     Gun stores Tracy Rifle and Pistol, Ten Percent Firearms, Sacramento Black Rifle, PRK Arms and their owners claim that California’s Penal Code section 26820 violates the First and Second Amendments. California enacted Penal Code section 26820 in 1923, which the gun dealers said prevents them from advertising the “most basic commercial information” to passersby.
     State law does not prevent them from advertising rifles or shotguns that people can view when passing by their establishments; it only bans the visible handguns, the dealers said.
     “But an anti-gun group would remain free under Section 26820 to use similar imagery to picket in front of that same dealer, encouraging people not to purchase handguns or warning of the dangers of gun violence (indeed, the First Amendment protects such speech as well),” the dealers said in their complaint.
     The law therefore is “viewpoint-discriminatory” and unconstitutional, the dealers said.
     They claimed the law discriminates against them and is designed to suppress the legal sale of handguns through “market manipulation” by “prohibiting truthful, non-misleading advertisements.”
     Federal inspectors have cited some gun stores and their owners for violating the ban and threatened to revoke their licenses to sell firearms if they did not remedy the violations, according to the lawsuit.
     The firearms dealers had sought a declaration that the law is unconstitutional and wanted its enforcement enjoined.
     They are represented by Bradley Benbrook and Stephen Duvernay with the Benbrook Law Group of Sacramento and Eugene Volokh with the UCLA School of Law, who were not immediately available for comment.
     Named as defendants were California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and California Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms Chief Stephen J. Lindley.

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