California's Nearly 100-year-old Ridiculous Gun Law Shot Down

Banning any gun shop signs that showed an image of a pistol was once considered normal.

Published Wednesday, September 19, 2018 11:30 pm
Gun Rights Watch article by GRW Chief Editor

A sensible judge in California, which must be pretty rare in that part of the country, last week struck down a highly unusual and unconstitutional but mostly overlooked state law regarding the advertising and sign placement of any banner at any firearms retailer that contained the likeness of a pistol that could be seen from outside the building. It might seem crazy that such a law still existed, or ever existed at all, but then... this is California that we're talking about.

The law, written in 1923, proclaimed that any handgun advertisements at gun retailers that were able to be seen from the outside of any store's physical perimeter were unlawful and therefore banned. Knee-jerk politicians at the time argued that it might cause impulsive gun buyers to well, buy a gun. While they might have actually been right in their logic, their assumption of how far they could constitutionally go to prevent such a thing was pretty far off the mark.

Sacramento Judge Troy Nunley highlighted out the idiocy of the law by pointing out that a large flashing neon sign that said, "Guns! Guns! Guns!" was perfectly legal, as was a depiction of an automatic assault rifle, but a simple tiny pistol was outlawed. He then granted a summary judgment repealing the law, calling it, “unconstitutional on its face”.

Nunley was quoted as saying,

"The Government may not restrict speech that persuades adults, who are neither criminals nor suffer from mental illness, from purchasing a legal and constitutionally protected product, merely because it distrusts their personality trait and the decisions that personality trait may lead them to make later down the road."

Witnesses inside the courtroom reported bizarre, nonsensical arguments from the state, who pointed out that impulsive people are far more likely to purchase a pistol to commit suicide — completely ignoring the fact that California has a 10-day waiting period for any firearm purchases.

But Nunley rejected this argument, citing precedence by the Supreme Court when he pointed out that they, “rejected this highly paternalistic approach to limiting speech” by ruling that the government “cannot justify content-burdens on speech based on the fear that people would make bad decisions if given truthful information.”

The ruling came about because of a 2014 lawsuit by several firearms dealers who had been fined by California for handgun ads. One of these was Ten Percent Firearms, who had been cited for an old metal sign shaped roughly like a revolver out in the store's parking lot spotted by an inspector in 2010. Tracy Rifle and Pistol, another plaintiff, had gotten cited when an inspector found large decals depicting handguns on the windows of their shop.