California Gun Dealers Fire Back in First Amendment Lawsuit
March 6, 2015 (SACRAMENTO, CA) — A number of California firearm retailers are firing back in a federal civil rights lawsuit against Attorney General Kamala Harris and the State’s Department of Justice.
The case was filed last November after the DOJ cited a Tracy, California gun dealer for having pictures of handguns in his store’s windows in violation of Penal Code section 26820. Plaintiffs include Tracy Rifle and Pistol, Sacramento Black Rifle, Ten Percent Firearms, PRK Arms, and Imbert & Smithers.
The plaintiffs say that the law, passed in 1923, is a ban on constitutionally-protected speech — speech that the dealers believe is protected under the First Amendment.
In a recent court filing opposing the challenge, the Attorney General argued that “California has a substantial interest in decreasing handgun violence and [Penal Code] section 26820 directly advances that interest by dampening demand for emotion-driven impulse purchases of handguns.”
“Typically the government is less upfront about its desire to use speech restrictions for other policy goals,” attorneys for the gun dealers said in their reply brief.
The gun retailers’ brief went on to say that, “At bottom, the Attorney General thinks that people’s exercise of their Second Amendment rights is unwise and dangerous. As a result, the Attorney General would like people not to exercise those constitutional rights, much as the Virginia Legislature did in Bigelow v. Virginia…when it restricted advertising for abortions.”
The Virginia abortion advertising ban was struck down in 1975 by the United States Supreme Court.
“The Attorney General might prefer a world without handguns and an Orwellian ban on Second Amendment-related speech, but the Supreme Court has told us the government can’t use speech restrictions to chill the exercise of other fundamental rights,” commented Brandon Combs, president of California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees, the state’s firearm industry association.
Tracy Rifle and Pistol owner Michael Baryla added: “The First Amendment prevents the government from muzzling citizens and businesses that government officials don’t approve of. This speech ban should be struck down.”
Quipped Baryla, “Ms. Harris’ heavy-handed attacks on our free speech don’t seem like very ‘liberal’ policies to me at all.”
The plaintiffs’ pending motion for preliminary injunction against the statute is scheduled to be heard by U.S. District Court Judge Troy L. Nunley at 2 p.m. on March 12, 2015, in Courtroom 2 (15th floor) at the Robert T. Matsui United States Courthouse, 501 I Street, Sacramento, CA 95814.
Case documents for Tracy Rifle and Pistol, LLC, et al. v. Attorney General Kamala Harris, et al. can be viewed at calgunsfoundation.org/litigation/trap-v-harris.