A number of California firearms retailers have filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit against state Attorney General Kamala Harris and the state’s Department of Justice on free-speech grounds. A Calguns Foundation release said the case, Tracy Rifle and Pistol, LLC, et al. v. Attorney General Kamala Harris, et al., 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. Tracy Rifle and Pistol owner Michael Baryla said, “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.” “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,” said Brandon Combs, president of California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees, the state’s firearm industry association.
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, “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 United States Supreme Court struck down the Virginia abortion-advertising ban in 1975.