September 14, 2023 – Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit blocked a California law banning firearm advertisements that “reasonably appear to be attractive to minors,” saying the law related to protected commercial free speech and was unlikely to reduce gun violence or the unlawful use of firearms.
As we previously reported, last year California enacted Assembly Bill 2571. AB2571 makes it unlawful for any “firearm industry member” to “advertise, market, or arrange for placement of an advertising or marketing communication concerning any firearm-related product in a manner that is designed, intended or reasonably appears to be attractive to minors.”
In its Opinion, the Ninth Circuit panel indicated that hunting and sport shooting groups were likely to prevail on their claims that AB 2571 violates their free-speech rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and blocked the law pending the final outcome of the case. According to the Ninth Circuit, this case is about whether California can ban truthful advertisements about firearms that can be used legally by adults and minors—just because it “reasonably appears to be attractive to minors.” Under First Amendment rights to commercial speech, states can ban truthful and lawful advertising only if it “materially” and “directly” advances a substantial government interest and is no more extensive than necessary. The Ninth Circuit determined that California is unlikely to meet this high bar. The Court reasoned that because California allows minors to possess and use guns under adult supervision, the state cannot justify the ban as a way to curb the unlawful use of firearms. The Ninth Circuit also stated that California’s law is more extensive than necessary, as it sweeps in truthful advertisements about the lawful use of firearms for adults and minors alike.
The Ninth Circuit determined that AB 2571 effectively constitutes a blanket restriction on firearm-product advertising, and that a speech restriction of that scope is not constitutionally sound under any standard of review. Accordingly, the Ninth Circuit reversed the lower court’s denial of plaintiffs’ Motion for a Preliminary Injunction seeking to enjoin AB 2571 and blocked enforcement of the law pending the final resolution of the case.
Renzulli Law Firm, LLP will continue to monitor significant firearms legislation at the federal and state level. If you have any questions concerning firearm related legislation in California and elsewhere, please contact John F. Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.