Gun rights activists may be spending as much time fighting for their First Amendment rights as for their Second Amendment rights these days.
One of the most important battles is taking place in Phoenix, where a business owner is fighting for the right to post signs that say “Guns Save Lives” on bus stop shelters.
The signs were taken down at the order of city officials in October 2010, even though Alan Korwin had paid a private company called CBS Outdoors $11,000 to put them up. Officials argued that the signs didn’t meet the requirements of advertising because they didn’t provide “adequate notice of a commercial transaction.”
Korwin disagrees and he has sued the city alleging that it violated his First Amendment right to free speech. A lower court ruled on behalf of the city but Korwin has appealed and arguments in his appeal were heard on Dec. 3. Judge Patricia K. Norris has not yet ruled.
ACLU And Others Defending Gun Advocate
“This about whether the city can tell people what they can say or not,” Korwin said. The Goldwater Institute is representing Korwin through its Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.
The America Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a brief on Korwin’s behalf.
“This is not about ideology,” Dan Pochoda, the legal director of the Arizona ACLU told The New York Times. “This is about important constitutional issues, which matter to both of us.”
The ACLU contends that the city violated both the U.S. and Arizona state constitutional guarantees of free speech when it took down the signs. The ACLU says Arizona’s Constitution has even stronger free speech guarantees than the U.S. Constitution.
The signs are actually owned and serviced by CBS Outdoors even though they are on public bus stop shelters.
The real reason city officials removed the 50 signs from the bus shelters was that the message they contained sounded too much like political speech, The Times alleged. Korwin says he was simply trying to drive traffic to his gun training website: TrainMeAz.com
One Man Crusade for Gun Rights
The city’s actions have not stopped Korwin; he recently paid for 30 more bus stop ads with the message “Guns Stop Crime.”
In his suit, Korwin is asking the court to order the city to put the signs back up and to establish new guidelines for the signs that protect freedom of speech. He also wants to learn who made the decision to take down the bus shelter signs.
A Nationwide Problem?
Unfortunately, Korwin is not the only Second Amendment activist to see his speech squelched. Recent news stories indicate that that gun rights advocates are being silenced nationwide. Examples of such incidents include:
- A police officer in Somers, New York, allegedly removed a lawn sign calling for the repeal of the SAFE Act a controversial gun control law in the Empire State from a homeowner’s lawn.
- The National Football League refused to allow an advertisement from Daniel Defense a gun manufacturer during the upcoming 2014 Super Bowl. The ad, which doesn’t even show a gun, vaguely promoted the idea of self-defense.