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First Amendment protects Second in Arizona court victory

Gun rights advocate Alan Korwin, sporting a "Guns Save Lives" sticker, won a free speech court victory yesterday.
Dave Workman

The Arizona State Court of Appeals ruled late yesterday that the City of Phoenix erred when it prohibited a prominent gun rights advocate from placing “Guns Save Lives” messages at city bus shelters, noting that Alan Korwin has a right to place his advertisements.

Korwin observed this morning in a telephone conversation with Examiner that, “This is a gigantic win for the Second Amendment and we now have the free speech to protect our gun rights in Phoenix, and the rest of the nation will have to take note of this victory.”

But it may be a narrow win, according to the Phoenix New Times. That news organ noted that “it’s a win based on a technicality of sorts, and stops well short of forcing the city to accept every ad submitted by the public.”

Korwin operates TrainMeAZ, a company that promotes firearms education. He noted that the Second Amendment Foundation and Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms – both based in Bellevue, Wash. – are among the supporters of this effort.

In 2010, his attempt to buy advertising at the bus shelters was rejected because the city contended it contained political messaging. As noted by the Arizona Daily Sun, the city argued that small print around the image of a heart that is at the center of the advertisement contained what an assistant city attorney called a “diatribe” about the Second Amendment and Arizona gun laws.

But the court, with Judge Kenton Jones writing the opinion, ruled that the city’s 2011 advertising standards, which would allow the city to reject Korwin’s advertisement because it is not “limited to” a proposed commercial transaction, are unconstitutional as applied to the advertisement. Chief Judge Diane M. Johnsen and Acting Presiding Judge Patricia K. Norris concurred. The ruling may be read here.

Indeed, it appears the city was acting inconsistently with the specific language of its own standards, and the court noted that, “Although Appellant’s advertisement clearly contains a number of noncommercial statements, it comports with the first provision of the 2011 Standards requiring that it propose a commercial transaction.”

The lawsuit was handled by the Goldwater Institute, Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation. The ACLU Arizona Foundation of Arizona filed an amicus curiae brief because this is a free speech case, Korwin noted.

The city has until June 9 to appeal, so Korwin is keeping his fingers crossed. At this point, however, he is cheered with a victory that, he suggested, should put other cities on notice. He also hinted that this ruling might portend some bad news for anti-gun billionaire Michael Bloomberg and his big-money “grassroots” lobbying effort, Everytown for Gun Safety.

“The attempt to suppress the message that guns save lives should give Mayor Bloomberg and his $50 million campaign to deny our rights one huge festering ulcer,” Korwin remarked. “The First Amendment protects the Second Amendment, and here it is on a platter.”

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