SAF Sues California Over Gun Show Prohibitions

(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

Gun shows are an intersection between the First Amendment and Second Amendment. They are a place where not only patrons can buy firearms, ammunition, and accessories, but also meet with like-minded people and exchange ideas. A gun show is a modern forum for Second Amendment advocates, or as described in case filed yesterday:

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.

For that reason, among several others, including the restriction of commerce, First Amendment violations, the stopping of peaceful assembly, equal protection under the law, etc. The Second Amendment Foundation has launched litigation against the state of California on their law prohibiting gun shows at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. From a press release:

The Second Amendment Foundation and two California gun rights groups have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s restrictive regulatory scheme covering the sale of firearms and ammunition as it applies to gun show operations in the state.

Joining SAF are the California Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc., South Bay Rod and Gun Club, Inc., B&L Productions, Inc./Crossroads of the West, Captain Jon’s Lockers, LLC; L.A.X. Firing Range, Inc./LAX Ammo and six private citizens. The case is known as B&L Productions v. Newsom.

SAF is represented by noted civil rights attorney Donald Kilmer, who successfully represented SAF in overturning the ban on gun shows at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego County, where the defendants were ordered to pay plaintiffs over a half-million dollars.

Named as defendants in this case are California Gov. Gavin Newsom in his official and personal capacity, Attorney General Robert Bonta, California Department of Food & Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross, San Diego County District Attorney Stephan Summer, San Diego County Counsel Thomas Montgomery, the 22nd District Agricultural Association and Does 1-50. The 57-page federal complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

The suit is challenging a 2019 law signed by anti-freedom caucus member Governor Gavin Newsom that outlawed the sale of ammunition and firearms on the Fairgrounds property, which essentially is a de facto ban on gun shows. Moreover, almost worse, the Fairgrounds, when approached about scheduling any gun shows with the promise that no firearms or ammunition would be sold, stonewalled one of the plaintiffs in this case and refused to allow them to book any dates.

The Fairgrounds is state land. By definition, that land belongs to all citizens and businesses in California. But due to the anti-freedom political climate in the Golden State, there are some that are just not comfortable with too much freedom being exercised in a public square. From the complaint:

Defendant Newsom sent a letter to the District urging the District to ban gun shows at the Fairgrounds, citing his concerns that “[p]ermitting the sale of firearms and ammunition on state-owned property only perpetuates America’s gun culture.”

Imagine that, Newsom not comfortable with the exercising of freedom or exchange of ideas through a culture that is different and unique than his own. Very tolerant of you Governor.

The heart of this issue is noted in the press release:

“Boiled down to the basics,” explained SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb, “the state has been regulating gun show operations almost out of existence, and more restrictive than brick-and-mortar retail gun shops or even internet sales. This amounts to deprivation of rights under color of local law, including the First Amendment rights of free speech and freedom of assembly, and the 14th Amendment’s equal protection under the law.

“This lawsuit follows our successful action against the Del Mar Fairgrounds,” he added, “but the regulatory regime now in place in California applies to any gun show, anywhere in the state. What is alarming to us is that Crossroads of the West has followed the rules, and so have vendors at their gun shows. Yet, the state is attempting to prohibit constitutionally protected activities that are perfectly legal, and are already highly regulated.

“Like it or not,” Gottlieb observed, “gun shows are public forums where like-minded people can meet and discuss various issues, engage in firearm sales and purchases, learn about gun safety and enjoy the camaraderie inherent at such events. Obviously, the defendants don’t like that, but they simply cannot violate constitutional rights to satisfy a personal disdain.”

Gottlieb’s sentiments are echoed several times in the complaint:

At the gun show, Plaintiffs associate with like-minded people, participate in public discussions, attend informational forums, distribute and collect information, make offers for sale, make offers to buy, and engage in legal and political discussions related to the Second Amendment, which are all forms of speech protected by the First Amendment. Discussions include, but are not limited to, firearms and ammunition, firearm technology, firearm safety, and firearm law and politics. Participants also exchange information about where to hunt and where to practice shooting, where and from whom to receive training, gunsmithing, gun repair, gun art, and many other topics that arise from the right to acquire, own, possess, enjoy, and celebrate arms as a quintessentially American artifact with constitutional significance.

California’s and Newsom’s blatant disregard for civil rights and the ability for people to exchange ideas as well as engage in commerce is beyond abhorrent. The Second Amendment Foundation along with their co-plaintiffs; California Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc., South Bay Rod and Gun Club, Inc., B&L Productions, Inc./Crossroads of the West, Captain Jon’s Lockers, LLC; L.A.X. Firing Range, Inc./LAX Ammo and six private citizens, all need to be applauded for standing up for this important cause. If the state can regulate who may and may not publicly assemble for whatever reasons on public land, what else can they regulate? Don’t answer that. It’s understood we’re talking about California.