California law banning handgun ads at gun shops struck down by judge

A U.S. judge on Tuesday struck down a nearly century-old California law that banned handgun ads at gun shops, saying the state failed to show it would prevent suicides or crime. The 1923 law banned any handgun ads at gun shops that were visible from outside the store. State officials argued the ads would spur impulsive people to buy a handgun, and impulsive people are more prone to suicide and crime.The law, however, did not restrict ads for other firearms.

Judge Troy Nunley in Sacramento noted in his ruling that gun shops could display a large neon sign reading, "GUNS GUNS GUNS" or a 15-foot depiction of a sporting rifle. The judge said they could also place ads for handguns elsewhere such as on a billboard blocks away.

"The Government may not restrict speech that persuades adults, who are neither criminals nor suffer from mental illness, from purchasing a legal and constitutionally protected product, merely because it distrusts their personality trait and the decisions that personality trait may lead them to make later down the road," Nunley said.

California has other laws that could prevent handgun violence without restricting speech in violation of the First Amendment, the judge said.

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