SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court on Wednesday opened the way to block a California law that bans gun ads aimed at children, saying it went too far in restricting lawful speech.
Sporting and gun rights groups and the publisher of a youth shooting magazine had sought an injunction to temporarily stop the law from taking effect, arguing that it blocked the marketing of legal gun events and recruitment for safe and responsible youth sport-shooting and hunting programs.
A lower court denied that request. But on Wednesday a three-member panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision.
That sends the issue back to the lower court for reconsideration.
The measure was signed into law last year. It bars marketing of firearm-related products “in a manner that is designed, intended, or reasonably appears to be attractive to minors.”
Court Rules on First Amendment Grounds
In its ruling, the appellate court said the law was likely to violate the First Amendment right to free speech and “does not directly and materially advance California’s substantial interests in reducing gun violence and the unlawful use of firearms by minors.”
“There was no evidence in the record that a minor in California has ever unlawfully bought a gun, let alone because of an ad,” the opinion’s summary said.
Gov. Gavin Newsom condemned the ruling, citing advertising by a gun-maker that sells a version an AR-15 style rifle that is smaller and lighter and advertised as being “geared toward smaller enthusiasts.”
“The court is fighting to protect marketing weapons of war to children,” Newsom said in a statement. “It is pure insanity.”
Newsom said he and Attorney General Rob Bonta are looking at options for challenging the ruling.
The law was one of several gun control measures passed by the Democratic-controlled state Legislature last year after the conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Americans have a right to carry firearms in public for self-defense — a major expansion of gun rights.
It was one of four that Newsom asked lawmakers to fast-track in response to mass shootings, including one that killed 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Texas in May 2022.