You know how most gun websites have suddenly started asking users to verify they are over 18 years of age? The reason for that was just zapped by a federal court. 

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last week delivered a 34-page ruling in a case challenging new California law that banned the "marketing of firearms and related products" by the firearm industry to minors in California, essentially treating constitutionally protected items the same as age-restricted tobacco and alcohol products. 

A group of Second Amendment and youth shooting sports organizations challenged the law in court on First Amendment free speech grounds, and the 9th Circuit panel saw merits in the case. 

"California has many tools to address unlawful firearm use and violence among the state’s youth," said U.S. District Judge Kenneth K. Lee for the panel. "But it cannot ban truthful ads about lawful firearm use among adults and minors unless it can show that such an intrusion into the First Amendment will significantly further the state’s interest in curtailing unlawful and violent use of firearms by minors.

“But given that California allows minors to use firearms under adult supervision for hunting, shooting, and other lawful activities,” Lee continued, “California’s law does not significantly advance its purported goals and is more extensive than necessary. In sum, we hold that (the statute) is likely unconstitutional under the First Amendment...”

As part of its finding, the panel reversed a lower court's denial of the preliminary injunction against the law and sent the issue back down to the district court for further proceedings consistent with its decision.

The lawsuit was brought by the California Rifle and Pistol Association, the Second Amendment Foundation, Junior Sports Magazine, California Youth Shooting Sports Association, Redlands California Youth Clay Shooting Sports, Gun Owners of California, and The CRPA Foundation. 

"Just because politicians in California don’t agree with our pro-gun viewpoint, they have no right to gag us,” SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb told Guns.com in an email. 

 

 

The law, passed as AB 2571 by the Democrat-controlled California Assembly and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in June 2022, provides for a civil penalty of $25,000 for any and each instance of firearm-related marketing to persons under the age of 18. That includes the “...use, or ownership of firearm-related products...” as well as “... events where firearm-related products are sold or used.” 

Soon after it went into effect, most online firearm-related websites – Guns.com included – began verifying age to comply with the AB 2571 mandate. Other effects rippled through youth shooting sports in California with at least one large organization, the California State High School Clay Target League, disbanding under the prospect that something as innocuous as emailing match details to student-athletes could result in a barrage of fines from the state attorney general's office.

Banner image: Clays shotguns on the rack at a youth shooting sports event. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

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