When Arizona’s Constitutional Carry Law, (which allows all law abiding citizens to open or concealed carry firearms without permitting or training requirements), became effective in July, 2010, a non-partisan, joint venture between the firearms training community and 2nd Amendment community began an initiative to promote safe, responsible and proficient use of firearms.  This organization, TrainMeAZ, developed an advertising campaign to provide gun owners with one stop information on firearm safety, firearms trainers and shooting ranges across the state.

As part of their initiative to raise awareness of the importance of training and personal responsibility with firearms, and to provide a resource to link gun owners with trainers, TrainMeAZ contracted with CBS Outdoors managing the advertising space for Phoenix area bus shelters to place 50 poster advertisements.  A week after the posters were put up, the City of Phoenix removed the ads, stating that the ads were political and not commercial in nature as required by the city ordinance.

TrainMeAZ negotiated with city officials to restore the ads unsuccessfully.  As a result, two unlikely bedfellows joined together in suing the City of Phoenix for violations of 1st amendment rights violations.  The Goldwater Institute initially filed suit in May, 2011, seeking to throw out the city ordinance requiring only commercial ads being allowed, stating the ordinance was vague and allowed too much subjectivity in the interpretation of the ordinance by city officials.  Recently, the ACLU joined in the suit, stating that the case “involves the scope of the Arizona Constitution’s grant to all persons of the right to freely speak, write and publish on all subjects”.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Mark Brain issued a ruling last fall in the city’s favor stating that the city had issued reasonable guidelines for what it will or won’t allow on transit billboards.  The attorney for the city, David Schwartz stated that the ruling would not stop Alan Korwin, the manager of TrainMeAZ from placing his ads anywhere else.

Both the Goldwater Institute and the ACLU are challenging the ruling, arguing that content-based restrictions on ads should be eliminated entirely or revise the ordinance to have a more objective standard.  Clint Bolick, Goldwater’s vice president for litigation stated that “the city’s arbitrary decision making is exactly the type of censorship the U.S. and Arizona constitutions forbid”.  He went on to say that “this odd-couple alliance between the Goldwater Institute and the ACLU highlights the importance of the case to our fundamental freedoms”.

The sticking point is differentiating between the city’s standard of political versus commercial.  In the current environment across the country, everything has become political, even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches have become political.  Would the city allow ads for Planned Parenthood to inform the public of their services?  What about a Christian day care center?

Depending on the political leanings of any given city official, the ads from TrainMeAZ, Planned Parenthood, and the Christian day care center could all be construed as politically oriented, rather than advertisements to attract business.  Unfortunately, as with many laws and ordinances being passed in ever greater numbers, careful thought and consideration has not been given to ensure that legislation is objective, clear and leaves no room for capricious interpretation.

Given that many of our fundamental freedoms are continually under assault by law makers and regulatory bureaucrats, we can only hope that the strange bedfellows, the Goldwater Institute and the ACLU will continue to find common ground to restore the sanctity of all of the Bill of Rights.  Who knows, perhaps these two organizations can lead by example to encourage more across the political aisle collaborations to safeguard liberty for all Americans.

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Juli Adcock began her career in law enforcement with the Escambia County Florida Sheriff’s Office as a patrol deputy until she was injured in a riot situation. She transferred to Judicial Security and retired in 1998. Juli pursued career advancement training with an emphasis on officer survival, interviews and interrogation. She worked with a local Rape Crisis Center and in victim’s advocacy, complementing her college course work in psychology. She currently resides in New Mexico and is an instructor with The Appleseed Project (www.appleseedinfo.org). The Appleseed Project is a rifle marksmanship clinic teaching the fundamentals of firing an accurate round downrange every 3 to 4 seconds, out to 500 yards, as well as American history. She has trained military personnel at White Sands Missile Range who are certifying as Squad Designated Marksmen. Juli instructs basic handgun skills to new gun owners in preparation for responsible personal gun ownership. She also writes for The Badge Guys (www.thebadgeguys.com).  She can be reached at [email protected] or through Law Enforcement Today