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Phoenix can't trash 1st Amendment rights of gun owners!!

May 9, 2014

Arizona Republic

If the city of Phoenix can trash your First Amendment right to talk about guns they can also trash your First Amendment right to Freedom of Religion!!!!!

Court backs pro-gun ads at Phoenix bus stops

Eugene Scott and Dustin Gardiner, The Arizona Republic | 9:44 p.m. MST May 8, 2014

The Arizona Court of Appeals on Thursday struck down Phoenix's decision forbidding a controversial pro-gun advertisement at city bus stops.

Charles A. Siler, external relations manager at the Goldwater Institute, a Phoenix-based conservative think tank, celebrated the ruling as a protection of Arizonans' First Amendment rights.

"The rules are enforced in haphazard fashion, so that people cannot know which ads will be allowed or censored," he said. "The court ruled unanimously that the city failed to follow its own rules, given that the ads were designed to encourage viewers to visit a commercial website for firearms training."

City officials were not immediately available for comment.

Phoenix officials removed 50 "Guns Save Lives" ads from its bus stops in 2010. Gun-rights activist Alan Korwin put the signs up but was told that its political message violated Phoenix's policy against noncommercial advertising on buses and transit stops.

Korwin declined comment on Thursday's ruling until he'd had time to discuss it with his attorney.

The city said promoting political speech on the city bus system would create controversy, potentially incite protests, stir accusations of political favoritism and possibly negatively affect transit-system revenues.

Phoenix attorneys have defended their policy by pointing to federal court rulings concluding that the government can impose reasonable restrictions on speech that appears in a "non-public forum," such as proprietary advertising sales.

The Goldwater Institute represents Korwin, who has also attracted support from the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU contends that Arizona courts have never ruled whether content-based restrictions on government advertising space is allowed under the state Constitution or provided a legal test to determine when restrictions can be applied.

Attorneys for the Goldwater Institute said the city's policy for reviewing bus-stop ads was vague and pointed to several examples of ads the city has permitted, including one that featured the words "Jesus Heals" and bandages in the shape of a cross.

"Throughout this litigation, the city has offered a dizzying array of explanations about what the guidelines allow and don't allow," Goldwater argued in court filings. "It is literally impossible for a person of ordinary intelligence to determine with any degree of assurance whether a particular advertisement will be accepted or rejected."

Last fall, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Mark Brain ruled in the city's favor, stating the city had created reasonable guidelines for what it will and won't allow on transit billboards.

Phoenix allowed Korwin to post an alternative ad, which reads "Guns Stop Crime" set against the backdrop of a blue heart, on city bus stops.

But Korwin and his attorneys said the city's decision to allow one pro-gun ad while rejecting a similar ad showed the haphazard nature of its "censoring" process.

Phoenix attorneys argued that its policy prohibits non-commercial advertisements, including those that meld a commercial purpose with political and religious statements. Korwin's ad referenced a website that links firearm owners to gun-safety training classes.

In court filings, the city calls the ads "political rhetoric in the sheep's clothing of an ostensible commercial advertisement."

"The city should not be forced into an all-or-nothing approach — allow no advertising or allow all advertising," Phoenix attorneys wrote. The policy is intended "to maximize revenue and avoid intricate issues of fair balance and equal time by avoiding the appearance that the city is favoring or disfavoring any particular candidate, political view, or side in a debate over contentious issues of the day."