Suicide prevention pamphlets are not ‘demonizing’ guns, not violation of gun shop owners’ First Amendment rights, appeals court rules

A suicide prevention pamphlet required to be distributed by gun sellers in Maryland is not a violation of First Amendment rights, the Fourth Circuit ruled in Jan. 2024. Pamphlet on merchant counter image courtesy YouTube screengrab Washington, D.C. Fox affiliate WTTG.


A federal appeals court has ruled that gun shop owners’ First Amendment rights are not being violated because they are required by a local ordinance to distribute pamphlets on firearms and suicide prevention in their stores.

A group of gun merchants in Anne Arundel County, Maryland argued the recently added county ordinance, which followed a steady uptick in local suicide deaths, violated their right “not to speak” on the subject at all.

But U.S. Circuit Judge Paul Niemeyer, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan, was not convinced, writing in an opinion for the U.S. Court of Appeals Fourth Circuit that the 8-page public health initiative pamphlets were constitutionally permissible because it compelled commercial speech that was factual and uncontroversial and furthered a government interest, complying with the test established by Zauderer v. Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the Supreme Court of Ohio.

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