Muni Admits Ban on Ads 'Promoting Use of Firearms' May Be Illegal

Categories: Public Transit
Gun ad cropped.jpg
Has a Supreme Court ruling forced Muni to accept ads like this?
Earlier this week, we reported on Muni pulling an about-face regarding ads advocating gun use -- faster than a speeding bullet.

While the transit agency edited the guns out of ads for the cop comedy The Other Guys due to policies forbidding billboards that "appear to promote the use of firearms," it subsequently accepted the Second Amendment Foundation's ads hyping a forthcoming gun-rights conference. These ads depict a shotgun-toting woman and the phrase "Can you afford to be unarmed?"

Clearly, this "promotes the use of firearms." So what gives?

It turns out that Muni's anti-firearm advertising policy may have to give -- give way, that is.

The transit agency's ad stipulations -- which also prohibit "obscene and pornographic" ads or billboards that "promote alcoholic beverages or tobacco products" -- were vetted by the city attorney's office in 2007. In June of this year, however, the Supreme Court handed gun-rights advocates a huge legal victory with a 5-4 ruling enshrining the Second Amendment's right to bear arms as fundamental -- and untouchable by state and local regulations.

Will Ferrell, sans firearm
Muni spokesman Paul Rose acknowledged that this ruling may render the agency's ad policy illegal -- and it is currently reviewing the matter. (If Muni had refused the ads, Second Amendment Foundation boss Alan Gottlieb told SF Weekly he'd have filed suit instantaneously; filing suit would have been every bit as satisfying as having Muni run the ads).

"We want to take another look at our policy in light of recent Supreme Court decisions," said Rose. "One could argue that those decisions significantly altered the legal landscape as to ads and how they include firearms."

Perhaps. But one could definitely argue that any ban on ads "promoting the use of firearms" that allows an ad like the Second Amendment Foundation's is no ban at all. 

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