Federal Court Strikes Down California Law That Bans Handgun Signs

Second Amendment

Federal Court Strikes Down California Law That Bans Handgun Signs, Advertising by Gun Dealers

SACRAMENTO, CA-( Today, federal Judge Troy Nunley ruled that a California law banning licensed gun dealers from displaying handgun-related signs or advertising is unconstitutional and violates their First Amendment rights. The lawsuit, Tracy Rifle and Pistol v. Becerra, is supported by Second Amendment civil rights groups The Calguns Foundation (CGF) and Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) as well as industry association California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees (CAL-FFL).

California Penal Code section 26820, first enacted in 1923, banned gun stores from putting up signs advertising the sale of handguns — but not shotguns or rifles. “But,” the court held today, quoting from the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s landmark Second Amendment 2008 opinion in D.C. v. Heller, “the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table.”

While the law completely banned handgun-related signs, the “Plaintiffs could display a large neon sign reading ‘GUNS GUNS GUNS’ or a 15-foot depiction of a modern sporting rifle, and this would be permissible,” Judge Nunley explained in his order, highlighting how unreasonable and under-inclusive the law was. And even after four years of litigation, “the Government has not demonstrated that § 26820 would have any effect on handgun suicide or violence.”

The government defended the law on the theory that it “inhibits people with ‘impulsive personality traits’ from purchasing a handgun,” but Judge Nunley held that this cannot justify restricting free speech rights: “[T]he Supreme Court has rejected this highly paternalistic approach to limiting speech, holding that the Government may not ‘achieve its policy objectives through the indirect means of restraining certain speech by certain speakers.’” “California may not accomplish its goals by violating the First Amendment. . . . § 26820 is unconstitutional on its face,” Judge Nunley concluded.

“This is an important victory for our clients and for the First Amendment,” said lead counsel Brad Benbrook. “Judge Nunley decided that the State could not justify its censorship of our clients, and we are delighted with the opinion. As the Court explained today, the government cannot censor commercial speech in a paternalistic effort to keep citizens from making unpopular choices – or choices the government doesn’t approve – if they are told the truth.”

“Under the First Amendment, the government may not restrict speech on the theory that it will supposedly lead a few listeners to do bad things, or even to commit crimes,” explained Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor who has written and taught extensively about the First and Second Amendments. “The Supreme Court has held this in the past, and has indeed often struck down restrictions on supposedly dangerous commercial advertising—including advertising for products that some people abuse, such as alcohol. It’s good to see the district court recognizing that the First Amendment has no gun advertising exception.”

“Today, the Court correctly ruled that the First Amendment protects truthful, non-misleading speech about handguns protected under the Second Amendment,” commented CGF Executive Director Brandon Combs. “People have a fundamental, individual right to buy handguns and licensed dealers have a right to tell people where they can lawfully acquire those handguns. Today’s ruling means that the government cannot prevent people, or gun dealers, from talking about constitutionally protected instruments and conduct.”

“This decision will serve as a reminder that firearms dealers have First Amendment rights as well as Second Amendment rights, even in California,” SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb said. “The bottom line is that a state cannot legislate political correctness at the expense of a fundamental, constitutionally-enumerated right. We are delighted to offer financial support of this case.”

The plaintiffs are represented by Benbrook and Stephen Duvernay of the Sacramento-based Benbrook Law Group as well as Professor Volokh. They expect that today’s order in the long-running lawsuit, which was filed in 2014, will be appealed by Attorney General Becerra to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

A copy of the order can be viewed at

About the Calguns FoundationCalguns Foundation

The Calguns Foundation ( is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that serves its members, supporters, and the public through educational, cultural, and judicial efforts to advance Second Amendment and related civil rights.

About the Second Amendment FoundationSecond Amendment Foundation

Second Amendment Foundation ( is the nation’s oldest and largest tax-exempt education, research, publishing and legal action group focusing on the Constitutional right and heritage to privately own and possess firearms. Founded in 1974, The Foundation has grown to more than 650,000 members and supporters and conducts many programs designed to better inform the public about the consequences of gun control.

About the California Association of Federal Firearm Licensees

California Association of Federal Firearm Licensees ( is California’s advocacy group for Second Amendment and related economic rights. CAL-FFL members include firearm dealers, training professionals, shooting ranges, collectors, gun owners, and others who participate in the firearms ecosystem.

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  1. When any nation (state or municipality) mistrusts its citizens with guns, it is sending a clear message. It no longer trusts citizens because such a government has evil plans” – George Washington

    The best personal defense aid is equitable or superior to whatever may be used against me, you, or us!!!!!. One might want to ask or consider the reasons why so many settlers fled Europe or their other homelands? The 2nd amendment was ratified to ensure the public would be equipped to fight against an army (British generally at that time) and to ensure the greedy whims of the monarchy would have no power in the new world.

    The purpose of the 2nd amendment was to ensure the wealthy didn’t tyrannize and take advantage of the poor to the point of war or revolution in which you-know-who loses and remains or becomes enslaved. It’s only a matter of time before history repeats itself in this young nation as it did so many times “across the pond”, and the framers knew this.

    Since the Bill of Rights was written Crony Capitalist monopolies (The Deep State Globalists) have been growing. They didn’t acquire their wealth through philanthropy; they are definitely out to get us and that’s not paranoia, it’s just a simple fact of life. Now, lobby groups generally promote interests of the 1% whom basically own the government in a progressively increasing and obvious way.

    When government officials rely on corporations for their career’s stability, and that when these corporations decide they’re capable and ready to enslave the masses [including those government officials], will you/me/we have the personal defense aids necessary to defend our freedom in this modern technological age, or will you/me/we be stuck with rusty armor?”

    We go back to the simple question of “What part of “shall not be infringed” do these Leftopathic Corruptocratic Globalists not understand”? Any law restricting ownership of any firearm written since 1791 is UNCONSTITUTIONAL and therefore technically unenforceable !

    ”Gun control is like trying to reduce drunk driving by making it tougher for sober people to own cars.”

  2. Why were no First Amendment Rights groups involved in this lawsuit? Do they not realize that when the State restricts one Constitutionally guaranteed right, and gets away with it, they will start infringing on other Constitutional rights? What happens when they decide that Christianity is offensive to the Muslim community so they start legislating against crosses and depictions of the crucifixion? What if they decide the other way and decide that all Muslim practices should be outlawed and everyone is required to publicly eat bacon to prove that they are all inclusive?

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