A federal judge in California on Tuesday blocked [order, PDF] the state from enforcing a law that bans gun vendors from displaying imagery and/or advertisements depicting or resembling guns.
Plaintiffs consisted of firearm vendors who were issued citations by law enforcement for displaying images, signs and advertisements of guns outside their establishments. The store owners filed suit in the US District Court of the Eastern District of California, arguing California’s penal code Section 26820 [text] violates their First Amendment rights.
Section 26820 of the California penal code provides: “No handgun or imitation handgun, or placard advertising the sale or other transfer thereof, shall be displayed in any part of the premises where it can readily be seen from the outside.”
The state government argued that the law prevents particularly impulsive individuals from buying firearms after viewing gun imagery outside stores. This, in turn, would help alleviate the state’s firearm-related suicide problem, which according to government, frequently involves people with impulsive traits.
Judge Troy Nunley was primarily concerned with whether §26820 serves a legitimate government interest. According to academics cited by the state, impulsive individuals are likely to take their own life shortly after deciding they intend to do so. The judge noted the state’s mandatory 10-day waiting period is likely to nullify concerns for “impulsive buying.” The judge also reasoned there are other ways for impulsive individuals to obtain firearms than through gun vendors.
Overall, the judge did not find the state presented evidence adequate to prove there was an important enough government interest to justify restriction of the gun vendors’ right to free speech.