Federal Appeals Court Upholds California's Ban on Gun Sales at State Fairgrounds

Federal Appeals Court Upholds California's Ban on Gun Sales at State Fairgrounds - John Locher/AP via Courthouse News Service Photo Source: John Locher/AP via Courthouse News Service

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld California’s ban on gun sales on state-owned property. The decision maintains the state's prohibition against buying or selling firearms at venues such as state fairgrounds while distinguishing between free speech rights and commercial sales activities at gun shows.

The case stemmed from a legal challenge initiated by Crossroads of the West, a prominent gun show operator, which argued that the ban violated their First and Second Amendment rights. The initial lawsuit was filed in 2018 when one of California’s agricultural district associations banned gun shows at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego County. This challenge expanded following a 2021 state law that also barred gun sales at the state fairgrounds in Orange County.

The 9th Circuit panel ruled that California's laws "prohibit accepting an offer to sell firearms or ammunition on state property." The judges clarified that while gun enthusiasts retain the right to discuss and promote gun culture on public property, the actual sales of firearms are distinct and can be regulated by the state.

"The restoration of my ban on gun shows on state properties — including most of the county fairgrounds sites that are owned by the state — will make us all safer," said State Senator Dave Min, an advocate for stringent gun sale regulations.

Crossroads of the West argued that the ban infringes upon both their First Amendment rights to free speech and their Second Amendment rights to bear arms. However, the court differentiated between speech and sales, noting that preventing gun sales at specific locations does not inherently suppress pro-gun speech. The panel stated that any decision by Crossroads to discontinue gun shows due to the profitability impact of the sales ban would be a voluntary business decision, not a constitutional infringement.

Regarding the Second Amendment, the gun show operator contended that prohibiting gun sales at state fairgrounds hindered individuals' rights to acquire firearms. The court rejected this argument, emphasizing that the ban does not prevent access to firearms altogether. The ruling highlighted that numerous licensed firearm dealers operate within the same regions as the fairgrounds, ensuring continued access to firearms and ammunition.

"There are six licensed firearm dealers in the same zip code as the Orange County Fairgrounds," the ruling noted. "Merely eliminating one environment where individuals may purchase guns does not constitute a meaningful constraint on Second Amendment rights when they can acquire the same firearms down the street."

The California Rifle and Pistol Association expressed disappointment with the decision and indicated plans to appeal. "The three-judge panel clearly did not understand the connection between First Amendment and Second Amendment rights," the organization stated, pledging to continue their efforts to protect gun culture and fight against government restrictions.

This ruling follows a series of legal battles and legislative actions in California aimed at regulating firearms, including recent measures by Governor Gavin Newsom to propose a federal constitutional amendment on gun ownership. The Supreme Court's decision in the landmark New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen case, which invalidated certain New York state regulations on public gun carrying, has also influenced ongoing debates and legal challenges related to gun laws in California.

Lawrence J. Tjan
Lawrence J. Tjan
Lawrence is an attorney with practical experience in corporate and general business legal matters, as well as law practice management. His litigation experience includes issues dealing with antitrust, bad faith and medical malpractice. His transactional experience includes buy-sell agreements, Reg D disclosures, investor subscription agreements, and stock option plans.
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