Saturday, November 26, 2022 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

California ban on marketing firearms to minors spurs lawsuit

The law imposes a $25,000 civil penalty for industry marketing that makes guns look appealing to kids.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — The publisher of “Junior Shooters” magazine, the California Rifle & Pistol Association and several youth sport shooting organizations say Assembly Bill 2571, signed into law just last week by Governor Gavin Newsom, unfairly targets pro-Second Amendment organizations by barring any kind of industry advertising designed to make firearms appealing to minors.

The law imposes fines of up to $25,000 for each violation, and the groups are seeking an injunction to block its enforcement.

The bill’s author, Assembly member Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, said children are being manipulated by pro-gun propaganda into participating in a malignant gun culture that has caused an epidemic of mass shootings in the U.S.

"Gun manufacturers are responsible for the killings that result from their marketing of guns specifically to our children — the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary being one of the most egregious examples of this. Gun manufacturers target kids with everything from children’s books about guns to special smaller weapons to make it easier for them to hold and shoot. The gun manufacturers are targeting our children to maximize profits, without any concern for the countless lives lost by children to gun violence,” Bauer-Kahan said this past February when she introduced the bill. “Taking away this tool of violent indoctrination from the gun industry is a vital step to ending the cycle of gun violence and protecting California’s kids.”

Bauer-Kahan, a Democrat from Orinda, was unable to comment by press time on the groups' lawsuit filed in federal court Friday.

The law seems specifically aimed at publications like “Junior Shooters,” a youth sports magazine that promotes firearms for hunting, recreational and competitive shooting. The magazine feature images of minors holding guns, as well as ads for ammunition, firearm parts and accessories — all of which are legal to sell and protected by the Second Amendment, the lawsuit notes.

Co-plaintiffs California Youth Shooting Sports Association, Redlands California Youth Clay Shooting Sports and the California Rifle & Pistol Association claim the law unconstitutionally restricts them from promoting and hosting competitive clay and target shooting events and firearm safety courses, as their programs “regularly involve signage, flyers, discussions, branded merchandise and giveaways, and/or other communications depicting minors enjoying or otherwise encouraging minors to enjoy their Second Amendment right to possess and use lawful firearms for lawful purposes,” the groups say in their lawsuit.

“This law is a clear First Amendment violation of speech and assembly. It’s really an attempt to wipe out the next generation of hunters and shooters,” CRPA president and general counsel Chuck Michel said in a statement. “Politicians in Sacramento are not even trying to hide their disdain for the ‘gun culture,’ which they neither understand nor support. They want to wipe it out.”

The plaintiffs also contend the law is overly broad and unequally applied, as it restricts the direct marketing of guns to minors but does not appear to prohibit the film, TV, and video game industries from featuring guns as entertainment.

A spokesperson for Attorney General Rob Bonta, whose office was named as a defendant in the lawsuit, said Friday, "We will take any and all action under the law to defend California’s commonsense gun laws."

Bauer-Kahan’s bill received emphatic support from Newsom, who signed it into law on July 1 along with Assembly Bill 1621, which restricts untraceable ghost guns. In a video message posted on the governor's Twitter page on the day of the signing, Newsom holds up an assault rifle like the kind manufactured by WEE1 Tactical, the maker of the JR-15 — an AR-15 for kids. “Decent human beings know that we should not be allowing this kind of disgusting marketing to go on another day,” he says, pointing to WEE1 Tactical’s logo displayed behind him that feature cartoon skulls with pacifiers.

Other gun control bills are currently on the fast track to passage in the Legislature, including two bills enabling private citizens to sue gun manufacturers and sellers for dealing illegal assault weapons and ghost guns. Senate Bill 1327 is modeled after Texas’ controversial abortion law granting a private right of action against abortion providers and will permit people to sue gun dealers and manufacturers in state court when a gun prohibited by state law is used in a crime. Assembly Bill 1594 allows Californians to sue against gun dealers and manufacturers for marketing their products to people at risk of harming themselves or others.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.

Loading
Loading...