California Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed Senate Bill 264 that effectively banned gun shows in public. Such legislation is to be expected in a state where one-party rule has been the norm in the past decade. According to Guns & Ammo magazine’s Best States for Gun Owner’s ranking, California is ranked in 47th place, making it one of the most inhospitable states for lawful gun ownership.
Despite this awful legislation now on the books, Californian gun owners have offered up genuine resistance in the form of a lawsuit filed in federal court.
The organizations that joined this lawsuit include the California Rifle & Pistol Association, Second Amendment Foundation, Asian Pacific American Gun Owners Association, Second Amendment Law Center, and other plaintiffs such as the operators of the Crossroads of the West Gun Shows.
The complaint was filed in Sacramento. In the complaint, the plaintiffs contended that SB 264 violates the right to assembly, free speech, and equal protection under the law. Several of the key points of this complaint read as follows:
Cam Edwards succinctly explained what’s at stake in this case:
Political and ideological speech—including speech concerning ‘politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion’—has long been considered the core of the First Amendment.
Public property made available for lease by community groups to engage in expressive activity must thus be available without regard to the viewpoint sought to be expressed. Such venues cannot be opened to some and closed to others, suppressing protected expression, absent a compelling government interest.
The First Amendment does not tolerate the suppression of speech based on what some may label an unpopular viewpoint of the speaker. Indeed, ‘above all else, the First Amendment means that the government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content.’
The whole push behind the ban on gun shows on public property like the Cow Palace just outside of San Francisco is to chill the exercise of constitutionally-protected rights; not just our ability to keep and bear arms, but our freedom to gather with other gun owners in support of our Second Amendment rights.
Gun shows are a modern bazaar—a convention of like-minded individuals who meet in this unique public forum that has been set aside by state and local governments for all manner of commerce. This convention-like setting is of incalculable benefit to the gun-buying consumer and promotes public safety.
Gun shows, in general, and the Orange County show, in particular, are a celebration of America’s “gun culture” that is a natural and essential outgrowth of the constitutional rights that flow from the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution
Gun shows, in general, and the Orange County show, in particular, are a First Amendment forum where literature and information are shared, speakers provide valuable lectures, classes are conducted, political forums are held where gun rights discussions take place, and candidates for political office can meet to discuss political issues, the government, and the constitution with constituents who are part of the California gun culture.
In effect, gun controllers in Sacramento want to prevent pro-gun gatherings from occuring by prohibiting public venues such as the Orange County Fairgrounds from hosting gun shows. Dubious public safety arguments were used to justify this gun show ban.
It’s anyone’s guess how this lawsuit will play out. However, this case demonstrates how interconnected freedoms like the right to bear arms and free speech are. When one of those freedoms is attacked, the other will soon follow.
As nasty as lawfare can be, it’s the only option for people who live in blue states where it’s next to impossible to pass pro-gun reforms at the state level. Sadly, that’s where we’re at this point in American history.
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