New attempts by the Golden State to crack down firearm sales at gun shows have drawn a fresh legal challenge from a gun show producer and several gun-rights advocates.
The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), along with the California Rifle and Pistol Association (CRPA), filed a lawsuit against California Governor Gavin Newsom (D.) and Attorney General Rob Bonta (D.) in federal court on Friday. The suit alleges that a recently passed law targeting gun shows by banning the sale of guns and ammo on certain state property is unconstitutional.
“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,” Alan M. Gottlieb, SAF founder, said in a statement. “Now the California Senate ban amounts to a total deprivation of rights under the color of law, including the First Amendment rights of free speech and freedom of assembly, and the 14th Amendment’s equal protection under the law.”
The lawsuit marks the second time SAF and CRPA have joined forces to challenge laws passed to crack down on gun shows in the state of California. The groups were previously successful in blocking a law that placed a moratorium on gun shows on the Del Mar Fairgrounds in 2019.
Senate Bill 264, the law in question in this latest suit, takes a new approach to cracking down on local gun shows. It prohibits local officials from allowing the sale of “any firearm, firearm precursor part, or ammunition” on any property contained within the Orange County Fair and Event Center rather than banning gun shows expressly.
The plaintiffs said that the same constitutional issues that led to the blocking of the ban in Del Mar are still present in SB 264 despite the change in language from the state.
“This sneaky law creates a distinction without a difference,” Chuck Michel, President of the CRPA, said. “The intent is still to effectively ban gun shows as a step towards eliminating the gun culture.”
California has since passed new legislation extending the logic of Senate Bill 264 to all public lands across the state, becoming the first state to effectively ban gun shows on all government property. That law was signed by Governor Newsom last month.
Daniel Villaseñor, a spokesperson for Gavin Newsom, told The Reload the Governor plans to “vigorously defend against the lawsuit.”
The plaintiffs allege that because the sale of guns and ammunition is lawful protected commerce, any law imposing a blanket ban on the sale of such items on public property amounts to a politically-targeted restriction on the free speech of both gun show operators and attendees.
“Defendants’ enforcement of SB 264, which prohibits the sale of firearms, ammunition, and firearm precursor parts at the Fairgrounds with the purpose and intention (or at least the effect) of banning gun show events at the Fairgrounds, is an impermissible content-based restriction of speech,” the complaint reads.
They asked the court to declare the law unconstitutional and order the California government to pay damages and attorney’s fees.
Attorney General Bonta’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
UPDATE 8-16-2022 3:38 PM EASTERN: This piece has been updated to include comments from Governor Gavin Newsom’s office.