Federal judge blocks California’s gun show bans
(CN) — A federal judge in Orange County Monday issued a preliminary injunction barring California from enforcing its ban on gun shows on state property, including county fairgrounds.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Mark Holcomb wrote that even if California's ban is effective at stopping illegal gun sales, the regulation is "more extensive than is necessary to serve that interest.”
"California’s interest in stopping crimes committed with illegal weapons, 'as important as it is, cannot justify' prohibiting the complete sale of lawful firearms at gun shows, especially when those same firearms are available for purchase at regular gun stores," wrote Holcomb, a Donald Trump appointee.
The ruling temporarily blocks enforcement of two state laws, both written by Democratic state Senator Dave Min, who represents parts of Orange County. The first, Senate Bill 264, barred gun shows from being held on Orange County Fairgrounds starting on Jan. 1, 2022. The second law, SB 915, took effect Jan. 1 this year, and banned gun shows on any state-owned property.
In a statement posted on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, Min condemned the ruling, calling it "the very essence of federal overreach that conservatives have so long decried."
"Today's injunction, issued by a Trump-appointed activist judge, is an outrageous abuse of judicial authority that will undoubtedly make our commutes less safe," he said.
"I am confident this decision will be reversed on appeal, and pray this totally unwarranted injunction does not lead to the deaths of more innocent fun violence victims in the interim," he added.
Alan Gottlieb, the founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, called the ruling "a huge victory for both the First and Second Amendments.”
“We believe the court has sent a clear message to the State of California, Governor Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta that the constitution trumps their personal animus toward gun owners and the Second Amendment," Gottlieb said.
Closing the "gun show loophole" has been a much-talked about goal of Democratic politicians for decades. Gun shows are, in part, a forum for individuals to sell firearms to other individuals. Because many gun regulations, such as background checks, include a "private sale exemption," gun shows are seen by many as an unregulated marketplace. That said, many states, including California, require background checks to buy a firearm at a gun show.
California in particular has strict limits on firearm sales at gun shows. Gun sales can be initiated at such events, but not completed. Buyers must pick up their weapon from a licensed retailer at a different location, following a 10-day waiting period and successful background check.
The plaintiffs called gun show bans a "thinly veiled" attack on gun shows themselves, and challenged the two laws on both First and Second Amendment grounds. They argued that the shows aren't just a place for firearm sales, but also a place for participants to meet and trade tips about hunting, gun safety and political advocacy. The bans, they said, were a limit on free speech.
Judge Holcomb agreed, writing that the laws have "a viewpoint-discriminatory purpose," and that they "disfavor the lawful commercial speech of firearm vendors.”
Monday's ruling is the latest in a spate decisions overturning gun control laws in California. Earlier this month, a federal judge in San Diego overturned the state's decades-old ban on semi-automatic weapons. In September, the Ninth Circuit ruled against a ban on gun ads aimed at minors. In April, a federal judge barred California from enforcing various handgun regulations.
All of the rulings made some reference to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, which determined that carrying a gun in public (with a license) is a constitutional right.
Last month, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law banning the carrying of guns in most public places, while also doubling taxes on guns and ammunition. But even Newsom sounded as if he expected the law to meet resistance from the federal court.
"It may mean nothing if the federal courts are throwing them out,” Newsom said after he signed the bill. “We feel very strongly that these bills meet the [new standard], and they were drafted accordingly. But I’m not naive about the recklessness of the federal courts and the ideological agenda.”