OC Register: State muzzles gun sellers

California has a lot of crazy gun laws, but this one might be among the most ridiculous. Several gun retailers are challenging a state law that prevents businesses from displaying advertisements depicting handguns, or even the words “Handguns for sale,” that can be seen from outside the store. (Rifles and shotguns are perfectly OK, however, and retailers can still advertise handguns in print, broadcast and online media.)
The lawsuit, Tracy Rifle & Pistol LLC v. Harris, was originally filed in November 2014, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on the case last month.
“I run one of the most heavily regulated and inspected businesses in existence, but it's still illegal for me to show customers that I sell handguns until after they walk in the door,” Michael Baryla, owner of Tracy Rifle and Pistol, told the Calguns Foundation, which is supporting the plaintiffs. “That's about as silly a law as you could imagine, even here in California.”
The state's position is that the ban prevents “impulse buys” of handguns, which it notes are used in a significant portion of homicides. Yet, the argument makes little sense in light of California's mandatory 10-day waiting period between the purchase and delivery of a firearm, and the state has not presented any evidence that the ban reduces crime.
“The First Amendment prevents the government from telling businesses it disfavors that they can't engage in truthful advertising,” lead counsel Bradley Benbrook said in a press release shortly after the lawsuit was filed. “This case follows a long line of Supreme Court cases protecting such disfavored businesses from that type of censorship.”
Not only are handguns legal products, they are constitutionally protected products. The state has no right to prevent sellers from advertising them on their own stores.
Though the 9th Circuit court rejected a motion to enjoin enforcement of the law while the case is pending, it did indicate that the plaintiffs are likely to prevail on their First Amendment claims. Let us hope that the court does not perform some legal gymnastics to alter that outcome, and that it renders its decision soon so as not to unduly delay justice to gun dealers.

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