by Karen Mehall Phillips - Friday, August 12, 2022
In case you missed California’s latest unconstitutional blow to sportsmen, on June 30 Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 2571 into law banning any firearm industry member (as defined by advertising or marketing a firearm-related product) from marketing firearms to minors. The so-called “urgency” measure’s broad language bans the use of firearms and firearm accessories in all advertisements, magazine articles, flyers, social media promotions and other communications promoting youth shooting sports camps, hunting clinics and other firearm-related activities. The punishment: Violators could receive a $25,000 fine per impression, occurrence or publication.
Fortunately, California sportsmen now have hope in fighting Newsom’s overreach. On Aug. 5, working alongside the NRA, a coalition of sportsmen’s groups filed a lawsuit against the state of California for declaratory and injunctive relief citing violations of Californians’ constitutional rights under the First, Second, Fifth and Fourteenth amendments. Plaintiffs include So Cal Top Guns Inc., Safari Club International, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, all of which actively promote youth firearm safety, shooting sports and hunting programs. The 51-page complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California against Rob Bonta in his official capacity as California attorney general.
As explained by Michael Jean, Director of the Office of Litigation for the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), “The real problem that AB 2571 poses is that its broad scope and vaguely defined terms are designed to prevent the next generation from participating in hunting and shooting sports. It outlaws content concerning the ‘use’ of a firearm or firearm accessory that a minor may find attractive. Any content promoting or encouraging youth hunting or shooting sports will obviously be covered under the statute and be subject to a fine of up to $25,000 per copy of the content.” In explaining the far-reaching impact of the new law, Jean added, “AB 2571 effectively shuts down those programs by ensuring that nobody will ever hear about them. And without those programs, the next generation of California hunters and shooters is going to be a lot smaller.”
Calling out California’s role as the epicenter of anti-hunting, anti-gun initiatives, the lawsuit explains, “California has for years attempted to unconstitutionally regulate firearm industry members’ First Amendment right to engage in truthful marketing and advertising concerning lawful products and services. This action is the next chapter in that ongoing saga.” In truth, AB 2571 “has the practical effect of wiping out … the promotion and preservation of the nation’s historical tradition of firearms ownership and hunting heritage in California through the passing down of pro-Second Amendment attitudes and traditions to future generations.”
As NRA’s Jean pointed out, how can groups get out the word on their upcoming event without promoting it? Of course, Gov. Newsom and others who support the state’s unconstitutional overreach know this as the Golden State increasingly is more akin to the “Petri Dish” State. Anti-gun, anti-hunting experiments such as this new law are implemented with the goal of then pushing to impose them on the rest of America.
For an example of the far-reaching impacts of this law, if the NRA runs an ad in California showing young hunters practicing gun safety during an NRA Youth Hunter Education Challenge event or Ducks Unlimited runs a youth program ad showing a mother and son waterfowl hunting with a Remington 870 pump shotgun, it could mean a $25,000 fine. As for who decides which communications are deemed violations of the law, the power to make the call lies with a California judge.
In sharing comments from two of the plaintiffs, “This law is a travesty that clearly violates several constitutional protections at once, while, ironically, undermining well established safety programs and education,” said Todd Adkins, Vice President of Government Affairs for the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance. Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation President and CEO Jeff Crane pointed to an additional consequence of the law, saying, “By significantly impacting the sporting-conservation community’s ability to effectively recruit and train the next generation of sportsmen and women, this law will have far-reaching consequences on the very funding structure that underwrites the conservation of California’s wildlife and their habitats. All people of the state—not just hunters—should be outraged that this law is now on the books.”
This is why NRA-ILA reports that the real irony here “is that the new law was pushed through at a time when California, like other states, is actively working to recruit more young hunters through creative marketing as noted in the CDFW’s 2019 Statewide R3 Implementation Strategy, referring to efforts to recruit, retain and reactivate. It identifies several goals, including: “to create, support and promote marketing and outreach materials that more fully embrace the shooting sports—archery, target shooting, rifle, shotgun and pistol ranges, youth shooting leagues and activities—as worthwhile, important and valuable activities linked to hunting and hunter recruitment, retention and reactivation starting in July 2020.”
According to a Townhall piece on the lawsuit, “In 1970, California had 764,000 licensed hunters. As of April 2022, approximately 290,000 Californians hunt. That’s a whopping 63 percent decrease. Today, fewer than 1 percent of Californians go hunting—the lowest per capita of any U.S. state—and those numbers are expected to further decline under AB 2571.” The effects of the new law are already being felt as youth events get cancelled and some groups begin to fold. For just one example, the California State High School Clay Target League was forced to suspend all operations over AB 2571 despite its impeccable firearm safety record.
As noted on NRAILA.org, the danger is that the law vaguely and broadly prohibits any advertisement promoting firearms or their use that simply “appears” to be attractive to minors. The bill, in fact, listed several vague factors indicating whether something would be attractive to minors, including communications featuring colors or caricatures that minors might find attractive or showing a minor with a firearm in an advertisement. No youth firearm safety, hunter education or shooting sports program can be promoted without running afoul of the law.
The NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum website and NRAILA.org will continue to monitor the case, which is captioned “So Cal Top Guns vs. Bonta.” For the latest news, the California Rifle and Pistol Association, the NRA’s California affiliate, is following suit—literally—as California-based sportsmen’s groups draw their lines in the sand.
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