A new California gun control law geared towards “stopping” firearms advertising to minors is already having a negative impact on youth shooting sports and hunting in the Golden State.
In June, the legislature approved Assembly Bill 2571—a bill allegedly aimed at stopping gun violence in response to the horrific Uvalde, Texas, mass shooting.
AB 2571 prohibits “a firearm industry member, as defined, from advertising or marketing any firearm-related product, as defined, in a manner that is designed, intended, or reasonably appears to be attractive to minors.” If anyone is found in violation of the statute, the civil penalty is $25,000 for each violation.
Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) proudly signed the bill into law and declared, “Those who are backing this industry can no longer market to our children. The idea that we even have to do this is ridiculous.”
“This law by the way goes into effect immediately. Because decent human beings, people with common sense, know that we should not be allowing this kind of disgusting marketing to go on another day.”
Unsurprisingly, the legislation won’t deter crimes involving firearms. Instead, it’s expected to trample on lawful gun advertising, which is protected under the First Amendment. Additionally, the law is already forcing youth organizations to disband.
Professor Eugene Volokh of the Volokh Conspiracy challenged the constitutionality of the law and argued commercial marketing is “attractive” to both youths and adults. He remarked, “Even as to commercial advertising, the law is unconstitutionally vague: It covers any ads that are "attractive to minors," even if they are equally attractive to legal adult buyers. And the specific examples don't resolve the vagueness problem…”
Additionally, The Reload revealed a youth shooting sports league has ceased operations altogether, citing the new anti-marketing bill.
It reports, “The California State High School Clay Target League (CASHCTL) folded last week following passage of Assembly Bill 2571, which imposes $25,000 civil fines on “firearm industry members” advertising “any firearms-related product” in a way that could be seen as “appealing to minors.” The statewide league, which operated under the nonprofit USA Clay Target League, has removed everything on the site except a message saying it was “forced by law to suspend all operations.””
In response, legal challenges have come from various gun rights and hunting organizations.
One suit filed in Los Angeles on July 8th argues the First Amendment rights of shooting sports leagues is being violated under AB 2571.
Another suit filed by a coalition of sportsmen’s groups—specifically Sportsmen’s Alliance, Safari Club International, SoCal Top Guns, and Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation— also challenged the law on “1st, 2nd, 5th and 14th Amendment” grounds.
“This law is a prime example of rushing action without fully understanding the consequences,” Jeff Crane, president & CEO of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, said in a news release. “By significantly impacting the sporting-conservation community’s ability to effectively recruit and train the next generation of sportsmen and women, this law will have far-reaching consequences on the very funding structure that underwrites the conservation of California’s wildlife and their habitats. All people of the state, not just hunters, should be outraged that this law is now on the books.”
“This law is a travesty that clearly violates several constitutional protections at once, while, ironically, undermining well established safety programs and education,” added Todd Adkins, Sportsmen’s Alliance vice president of government affairs. “In their haste to politicize firearms, Gov. Newsom and the legislature have destroyed youth education and firearm-safety programs that have long been supported by Californians.”
Before patting themselves on the back, California Democrats must answer for deliberately undermining conservation efforts in a state that’s hemorrhaging hunting participants. Without hunters, the conservation funding model would cease to exist.
In 1970, California had 764,000 licensed hunters. As of April 2022, approximately 290,000 Californians hunt. That’s a whopping 63% decrease. Today, fewer than 1% of Californians go hunting—the lowest per capita rate of any U.S. state. And those numbers are expected to further decline under AB 2571.
Why? Given this “gun safety” bill, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s December 2019 R3 (Recruitment, Retention, and Reactivation) Plan, which contains marketing for youth shooting sports and hunting, will be jeopardized. The 2019 plan says it will “create, support and promote marketing and outreach materials that more fully embrace the shooting sports—archery, target shooting, rifle, shotgun and pistol ranges, youth shooting leagues and activities—as worthwhile, important and valuable activities linked to hunting and hunter recruitment, retention and reactivation starting in July 2020.”
Much to Governor Newsom and his party’s chagrin, AB 2571 won’t mitigate or stop crime involving guns. Rather, it will undermine the future of hunting and shooting sports in the formerly Golden State.
California is a net exporter of terrible policies. Don’t be surprised if copycat laws come before your state legislature soon. Remember: Conservation and true gun safety will be threatened—or worse, endangered— if these measures advance nationwide.