By Daniel Wiessner
(Reuters) -A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday blocked a California law banning gun marketing that is attractive to minors, saying it was unlikely to reduce gun violence or the unlawful use of firearms.
A panel of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said hunting and sport shooting groups were likely to prevail on claims that the law violates their free-speech rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and blocked it pending the outcome of the case.
The court reversed a January ruling by a federal judge in Sacramento who had said the law properly regulated commercial speech and the groups were unlikely to succeed in their challenge.
The 9th Circuit said that because California allows minors to possess and use guns under supervision, the state cannot justify the ban as a way to curb the unlawful use of firearms.
"California’s law does not significantly advance its purported goals and is more extensive than necessary," Circuit Judge Kenneth Lee wrote for the court.
The 9th Circuit, which has nearly 30 active judges, is considered to be one of the most liberal U.S. appeals courts. But the three judges on Wednesday's panel was made up entirely of appointees of Republican presidents.
The California Attorney General's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Chuck Michel, a lawyer for the groups and the president of the California Rifle & Pistol Association, applauded the decision in a statement.
"This is another example of legislative overreach and the politicians' willingness to trample on constitutional rights," he said.
California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, signed the measure into law last year, citing the need for new legislation "as the (U.S.) Supreme Court rolls back important gun safety protections."
Newsom's office cited gun manufacturer Wee 1 Tactical's advertising of an AR-15 meant for kids as an example of why the law was needed.
California lawmakers passed the ban days after the conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court ruled the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment protects a person's right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense.
That ruling, which said any restrictions on gun ownership must fall within the nation's "historical tradition of firearm regulation," has led courts to strike down other gun control laws.
(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi, David Holmes and Timothy Gardner)