Hunting Coalition Seeks Injunction Against California Law Banning Free Speech

The Sportsmen’s Alliance, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, and Safari Club International filed for a preliminary injunction today in their federal lawsuit against a newly passed California law to protect the free speech rights of shooting, hunting, and conservation organizations throughout the state.

The law, created by the passage of AB 2571, which purports to prohibit the “marketing” of firearms to minors, actually goes much further by banning free speech regarding the use of firearms while hunting, shooting or engaging in competitions that might be “attractive to minors.” It’s anyone’s guess what this means.

The Sportsmen’s Alliance was the first to alert sportsmen on AB 2571 early in the legislative session, citing the bill’s prohibition of communicating any youth firearm-related activities as the death-knell of recruitment efforts and hunter safety training statewide.

Because the law institutes a massive $25,000 per occurrence penalty, individuals and organizations responded by putting the brakes on communicating anything about youth shooting and education programs of all types.

“We’ve just implemented a major overhaul of our next magazine to comply with this draconian law, removing a number of stories about youth hunter recruitment, our high school Conservation Science curriculum and pulling all photos of kids hunting with firearms,” said Todd Adkins, vice president of government affairs for Sportsmen’s Alliance.

“And this is precisely what Gov. Newsom and supporters of AB 2571 want, to muzzle our free speech and gut our recruitment efforts, because their ultimate goal is to remove hunters from the landscape altogether.”

Although Newsom signed an amendment that was passed in the waning moments of the 2022 legislative session, the new language does little to protect free speech by hunting organizations like the Sportsmen’s Alliance which regularly publish on firearm-related issues. Many organizations with routine communication outlets like magazines, websites, social media platforms, and the like will simply cease to exercise their protected First Amendment rights because of the uncertainty created by the new law.

“The amendment Newsom signed is just a bunch of nice-sounding words that don’t fix the underlying gag order the law puts on organizations like ours,” continued Adkins. “It’s political eyewash to call this is a ‘fix’ when it’s really nothing more than a shiny object to show some groups who wanted a carve out.”

The Sportsmen’s Alliance legal challenge in federal district court continues, and the filing of the preliminary injunction necessary to stop enforcement of the law so that free speech related to youth hunter education, recruitment, and shooting programs can continue while the case is pending.

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