Court upholds California’s ban on gun shows on state property

California laws prohibiting gun sales at county fairs and on other public property do not violate the rights of gun sellers or buyers, who remain free to conduct their transactions elsewhere, ruled Tuesday a federal appeals court.

The court overturned a federal judge’s ruling that blocked the laws last fall.

The two laws, sponsored by Sen. Dave Min, an Irvine Democrat, banned the sale of guns at the Orange County Fair starting in January 2022, and at all county fairgrounds located on land owned to the state starting in January 2023. In his October ruling, District Judge Mark Holcomb of Santa Ana said offers to buy guns and agreements to sell them are acts of liberty of speech, and that “the sale of lawful firearms involves commercial speech protected by the First Amendment.”

But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Tuesday that the laws only prohibit sales agreements between sellers and buyers of firearms on public property, not discussions, advertisements or other speech about firearms. fire.

The laws “do not directly or inevitably restrict all expressive activity,” Justice Richard Clifton wrote in the 3-0 decision.

He noted that a separate state law, unchallenged in this case, made it illegal to furnish a firearm to a buyer at a fairgrounds. These sales can only be made at a licensed gun store after a 10-day waiting period and a background check. Min’s measures simply prohibit gun sales transactions at fairs, which are not protected by free speech, Clifton said.

Gun shows attracted thousands of potential buyers to county fairs. The suit was filed by a gun show company, B&L Productions, which also argued that the ban on fairground sales violated the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

The appeals court disagreed, noting that there were six licensed firearms dealers in the same ZIP code as the Orange County Fairgrounds, the subject of the Min Act of 2022 .

“Simply eliminating an environment in which individuals can purchase firearms does not constitute a significant constraint on Second Amendment rights when they can acquire the same firearms on the street,” Clifton said .

Clifton, appointed by President George W. Bush, was joined in the decision by Justices Holly Thomas and Roopali Desai, appointed by President Joe Biden. Holcomb, whose decision they overturned, was appointed by President Donald Trump.

The decision “will make us all safer,” Min, the laws’ author, said Tuesday. “I hope that in my lifetime we return to being a society where people’s lives matter more than guns,”

Lawyers for B&L Productions were not immediately available for comment. They could ask the full appeals court for a rehearing before a larger panel, or appeal to the Supreme Court.

Contact Bob Egelko: [email protected]; Twitter: @BobEgelko