Federal appeals court clears the path to potentially block a California law that prohibits gun advertisements targeting children, deeming it excessively restrictive on lawful expression. Various sporting and gun rights groups, along with a youth shooting magazine publisher, requested a temporary injunction to halt the implementation of the law, asserting its hindrance of marketing legal gun events and recruitment for safe and responsible youth sport-shooting and hunting programs.
Initially, a lower court dismissed the request, but the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, comprising a three-member panel, overturned this verdict on Wednesday, prompting a reevaluation of the issue by the lower court.
Enacted last year, the law prohibits the promotion of firearm-related products “in a manner that is designed, intended, or reasonably appears to be attractive to minors.” However, the appellate court opined that this legislation is likely to infringe upon the First Amendment right to free speech and fails to effectively advance California’s significant interests in curbing gun violence and preventing the unlawful use of firearms by minors. The court highlighted the absence of any documented instances in California where a minor illegally purchased a gun influenced by an advertisement.
Governor Gavin Newsom denounced the ruling, highlighting an advertisement from a gun manufacturer that markets a smaller and lighter version of an AR-15 style rifle specifically tailored to young enthusiasts. Newsom lamented, stating, “The court is fighting to protect marketing weapons of war to children,” deeming the situation “pure insanity.” Newsom expressed that he and Attorney General Rob Bonta are examining different avenues to challenge the court’s decision.
Last year, among numerous gun control measures enacted by the Democratic-led state Legislature, the law in question was one of the notable ones. These measures were formulated in response to the conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, expanding gun rights by affirming the constitutional right of American citizens to carry firearms in public for self-defense. It was in line with Governor Newsom’s urgent request to expedite the legislation following tragic incidents of mass shootings, including a devastating episode in Texas in May 2022 that resulted in the deaths of 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school.