City of Flagstaff Blocks Local Firearms Dealer from Advertising
Timberline Firearms and Training in Flagstaff has bought advertising at the Flagstaff Airport for years. Visitors and locals alike were made aware of the store and the indoor shooting range facility when they were in the baggage claim area.
This year is different, however.
Recently, the city denied the ad placement on the grounds that it “depicts violence.” It actually shows happy customers holding firearms and an instructor working with a student at their indoor range.
AzCDL member and Timberline owner Rob Wilson attempted to appeal the decision but it turns out the city doesn’t even have an appeal procedure! Worse yet, the city is now proposing a new advertising policy that prohibits “Advertising that promotes, solicits, depicts, or markets the sale, use, rental, distribution, or availability of firearms, ammunition, or related goods or services.”
Wilson is not taking this lying down. He will be attending the council meeting to express his views on the subject.
AzCDL has reviewed the proposed changes to advertising policy and found they violate a number of provisions of state law. In general, an Arizona municipality cannot ban advertising for a legal business, with some exceptions. They can regulate the size, lighting, and spacing of outdoor advertising signs along highways and roads under certain conditions, but this does not allow them to completely ban advertising. They also cannot require pre-approval for advertising content, except in the case of insurance administrators. State law also stipulates that municipalities cannot ban advertising for a legal business unless they can show it constitutes a threat to public health and safety. Timberline poses a threat to no one.
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the 1st Amendment protects commercial speech, that public transit systems creating public forums cannot exclude speakers based on viewpoint, and that categorical bans on advertising certain products or services are unlikely to survive judicial review.
It’s also quite likely that the proposed changes violate the state’s firearms preemption statute.
You may remember that Alan Korwin and TrainMeAZ faced a similar situation in 2013 when the City of Phoenix rejected firearms training ads at city bus stops. Ultimately, Korwin sued the city and won in court (KORWIN v. CITY OF PHOENIX; 1 CA-CV 12-0878). We hope it doesn’t come to that, but the city of Flagstaff could learn something from the case!
AzCDL believes that Flagstaff’s attempt to prohibit firearm advertising is unconstitutional and strongly opposes the proposed changes.
If you would like to support Timberline and Arizona’s firearms industry and are able to attend the meeting, please join us in making your objections known:
Flagstaff City Council Work Session Tuesday, September 12, 2023 COUNCIL CHAMBERS 211 WEST ASPEN AVENUE 3:00 P.M.
If you would like to comment and are unable to attend in person, you can e-mail your comments to the Flagstaff City Council at email@example.com.