A Win for Both the First and Second Amendment in California

California fairgrounds could soon be hosting gun shows once again, thanks to the action of a federal judge. Attorney Tiffany Cheuvront joins Bearing Arms Cam & Co today for a deep dive into U.S. District Judge John W. Holcomb’s decision to grant an injunction against two California laws that are aimed at eradicating gun shows across the state; a welcome development that gun owners have been waiting for since April.


Holcomb’s injunction was a clean sweep for the plaintiffs represented by Chuck Michel, Anna Barvir, and Cheuvrount, with the judge concluding that they’re likely to prevail at trial on every one of their claims. The lawsuit, known as B&L Productions v. Newsom, raised both First and Second Amendment challenges to recently enacted California laws barring gun shows from the Orange County Fairgrounds specifically and all state-owned property in general, and the judge concurred that the bans aren’t just a novel way to impose a barrier to gun ownership but are also an exercise in viewpoint discrimination.

Cheuvront tells Bearing Arms that she’s already heard from gun owners who are asking their own local officials to start scheduling gun shows, and it’s possible that we’ll see the first gun shows on state property resume before the end of the year. Some of that depends on when and if the state appeals Holcomb’s decision to the Ninth Circuit, where yet another gun show restriction is already on appeal.

It’s easy to get lost in the legal weeds here, but back in 2019, before the state legislature passed SB 264 and SB 915, lawmakers approved a bill banning gun shows at the Del-Mar Fairgrounds outside of San Diego. Under AB 893, it’s forbidden to “contract for, authorize, or allow the sale of any firearm or ammunition on the property or in the buildings that comprise the… [Fairgrounds]”; language that was mirrored and expanded by the more recent legislation aimed at the Orange County Fairgrounds and all state-owned property. B&L Productions, better known as Crossroads of the West, sued along with several other plaintiffs, but a federal district court ultimately dismissed the case earlier this year. The case was then appealed to the Ninth Circuit in May, and so far there’s been little movement.


The Del-Mar Fairgrounds aren’t covered under Holcomb’s injunction, according to Cheuvront, so that may be the one public facility in California still off-limits to gun shows for the moment.

Cheuvront told me “It’s very confusing, just like all California gun laws,” and she’s not wrong. Thankfully, Judge Holcomb’s injunction is easy enough to understand; gun shows must be allowed at every other facility where they were previously banned.

While attorneys for the state of California had argued that the gun show ban fits comfortably within the “text, history, and tradition” test laid out by the Supreme Court in Bruen, they could cite no similar statutes at the time of the ratification of either the Second or Fourteenth Amendments. Instead, they relied on previous rulings from the Ninth Circuit that held that the Second Amendment doesn’t “confer an independent right to sell or trade weapons,” as well as a handful of mostly 19th century statutes regulating the “safety of firearms and gunpowder”. Cheuvront noted that bill sponsor and state senator David Min undercut that argument by bragging about the first-of-its-kind nature of the ban; something her colleague and fellow Michel & Associates attorney Kostas Moros also pointed out on social media.


Min’s assertion that halting enforcement of his legislation is going to make California less safe is also absurd, given that the same rules apply for firearm sales at gun shows as they do at brick-and-mortar gun shops in the state. In fact, no guns actually change hands at a gun show since the state imposes a ten-day waiting period. Someone might be able to start the process at a gun show, but they’ll have to complete the transaction a week-and-a-half later at the FFL’s established location; a fact that Holcomb recognized even as the state tried to gloss over that truth that’s inconvenient to their case.

If anything, the fact that gun shows in California must fully comply with all laws applicable to brick-and-mortar stores makes the above comparators inapposite, because the examples that Defendants cite were equally applied to all firearm vendors and gunowners. No law that Defendants cite permitted the state arbitrarily to ban firearm sales in disfavored forums, nor did those laws discriminate between gun vendors based upon whether the sales took place on public or private land. Statements by the challenged bills’ author highlight the difficulty that Defendants face in finding a historical analog; California State Senator Min declared that “California will become the first in the nation to enact a total ban statewide” on gun shows. The right to sell firearms is neither freestanding nor unlimited, but neither is the state’s ability to impose restrictions on firearms that are inconsistent “with the Second Amendment’s text and historical understanding.”


So what happens next? Cheuvront says while the state typically wastes no time in appealing decisions that go against their gun laws, Attorney General Rob Bonta may decide to hold off until the Ninth Circuit deals with the Del-Mar gun show ban, and might even request an extension to the deadline to appeal. The ball is in Bonta’s court for the moment, but unless or until he takes his loss to the Ninth Circuit gun shows are back on the table throughout the state; a very welcome development in one of the most hostile environments for our Second Amendment rights.

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