The notion that members of an industry making and selling legal products—a sector whose consumers, in fact, have constitutional protections to own its products—should not be allowed to advertise the sale of its firearms, its competitions or even its actual gun-safety and training courses, is continuing to percolate in various parts of America.
Indeed, because some youth in California might see a digital edition of one of the NRA’s official journals—American Rifleman, American Hunter, Shooting Illustrated or this magazine, America’s 1st Freedom—the NRA has been forced to run a warning that readers must click on to read an issue. It reads:
Some states have passed legislation making it unlawful to communicate with those under 18 about broad categories of firearms, parts, and accessories.
As a result, the NRA is forced to restrict the sending of certain materials and information for these states. The restriction is made under protest, but we have to do this to comply with these states’ infringement on the freedom of speech of the NRA and our members, supporters, and the general public.
In some states, this download is made available only to those 18 years of age or older. By clicking on this link, you represent to us that you are at least 18 years old.
Once these unconstitutional laws are struck down or repealed, this restriction will be removed.
I confirm that I am at least 18 years of age.
This requirement is part of an effort to reduce the number of people who are exposed to the practical use of our firearm freedoms. In a recent example, the city of Flagstaff, Ariz., stopped Rob Wilson, owner and founder of Timberline Firearms & Training in Flagstaff, from displaying an ad for his range at a local airport—a clear First Amendment infringement.
Wilson’s struggle to retain his American freedom is regional, but it says a lot about what is happening now in many areas of this nation.
A1F: You came on my radar, Rob, after the Goldwater Institute contacted us. The city of Flagstaff prevented you from advertising in your local airport, which you had been doing year after year, simply because you’re putting up a gun-related ad. Can you give me some background?
Wilson: Our ad ran thousands and thousands of times over the baggageclaim belt at our local airport and there were no complaints. But this year, when we tried to run it during the summer peak season, the city of Flagstaff determined that somehow our video depicted violence. And they have a policy that prohibits depicting violence in advertising.
“I spent 22 years in the Navy defending our Constitution, and I am not about to let a city council and mayor just walk over my rights now.”
A1F: Well, wait, as a Second Amendment advocate, people like you and me are into stopping violence. The gun-safety courses you’re holding are designed to help people handle guns safely and to potentially stop violent criminals who might come for them, so how can they accuse you of promoting violence?
Wilson: I agree with you completely. I think we are the folks who are most opposed to violence. We are prepared should a violent person appear in front of us, but otherwise we oppose violence. In the concealed-weapons courses I teach, the very first thing we cover is how to avoid getting into bad situations.
The city of Flagstaff’s city council apparently has an issue not really with violence, however, as they have since decided to revise their policy. Their new policy eliminates the violence and anti-social behavior paragraph and replaces it with one that specifically targets firearms. Banning advertising of firearms sales, rentals, use, ammunition or any associated type of business is their proposed new policy.
A1F: It’s good to hear they at least dropped the anti-social claim; after all, there’s nothing more social than going to a range, hanging out with good friends or just meeting people and shooting. It’s a very social experience. I don’t get the anti-social claim at all.
Wilson: Right. I don’t either.
A1F: To understand this more fully, I read the Arizona Constitution and found it has very clear protections on speech. As such amendments are designed to restrict government infringement on our rights, how is it they think they’re going to get away with this?
Wilson: That’s really hard to understand. Just before the meeting where they discussed this new policy, they did have an executive session. So, in the secret session, we couldn’t hear the legal advice they received on this new policy. It would be difficult to believe that any attorney would advise the council that they are in a defensible position with this new policy.
Whatever the legal advice was, they took an oath of office to uphold both the U.S. and the Arizona constitutions. Also, the laws of the state of Arizona include a preemption clause, a law that says cities and counties are not allowed to make rules, policies or laws regarding firearms. So, they’re wrong on at least three different levels.
A1F: Okay, so here they are taking away your ability to advertise, but now I’m wondering, are you getting more foot traffic into your gun range and store because of this controversy?
Wilson: That’s a great observation. Yes, you’re right. We’ve had folks who have driven up to Flagstaff from Phoenix after hearing this story. They just wanted to visit our range and to buy t-shirts so they could proudly say they’re supporting our efforts.
We’re the only combination retail store, shooting range and training facility in all of northern Arizona. So, in that respect, too, you’d think the city council would want people to be aware of where they can go to get proper training and advice on what to buy or not to buy.
A1F: So, a potential gun owner can come to your store and find trainers and salespeople to help them find a firearm that fits them, and they can then try the gun, with expert guidance, at your range?
Wilson: Yes, in fact, last night I taught a class called First Shots that’s specifically for people who have never touched a firearm before in their life. Six people came in a little fearful. After an hour of classroom training, we went into the range and worked one on one with each of them. Each of them got to shoot a gun safely. All of them came out with smiles and with their targets. All of them said they are planning to come back and get more training so they can enjoy the firearms sports we offer here.
A1F: The smiles that appear on peoples’ faces when they realize they can safely control a firearm and protect themselves are just amazing.
Wilson: It’s one of the most-rewarding things I do here, actually.
A1F: As you founded Timberline Firearms & Training in 2018, you no doubt saw the 2020 surge. What changes have you seen with the people who come into your store and range?
Wilson: Well, in 2020, we saw an awful lot of people who had been on the fence about purchasing a firearm. The events that were happening all over the country pushed people over that fence and they decided to come in. One of the things that I was really pleased to see was that a majority of those people wanted additional training. Many signed up for our introduction classes and our intermediate classes.
The folks that maybe went to a big-box store probably weren’t as well served as those who came here and got the proper training.
A1F: Right, you are one of the NRA’s 125,000 certified firearms instructors who help teach people to shoot safely and, in a worst-case scenario, to defend themselves. Let’s circle back around to the politics: Do you have any timeline on the legal side?
Wilson: The Goldwater Institute sent a demand letter to the city council and the mayor saying what they’re doing is unconstitutional. The city has already violated the First Amendment free-speech rights of Timberline Firearms. So they are on notice that they shouldn’t go forward with their planned agenda. But, as we’re speaking here in early November, they’re doing just that. They’re going to have a work session in which they’re going to do a final review of this new policy that specifically prohibits gun advertising. And then they will have their standard meeting where they’ll vote on the policy. Right now, it looks like they’re going to approve it. Once they do that is when we’ll file suit in order to try to convince our elected representatives to honor the oath they took.
A1F: So, first of all, you’re clearly saying they’re stepping on your rights. And second, you’re saying, please stop wasting city resources on this First Amendment infringement?
Wilson: Exactly. I had about an hour-and-a-half-long meeting with the city attorney and his deputies. They thought we should compromise somehow. They thought we should just not include firearms in our ad and then it might be okay. I said, “I spent 22 years in the Navy defending our Constitution, and I am not about to let a city council and mayor just walk all over my rights now.”
They replied that our ad made them uncomfortable.
A1F: You should have them come to your range so you can make them comfortable with their own freedom.
Wilson: I agree. I sent a personal email to each one of the members of our council and to the mayor inviting them to come out. I offered each a one-on-one private lesson so they can explore exactly what it is they’re trying to regulate, but I got absolutely zero responses.
A1F: It sounds like they need the education to me. So how can people find you, contact you and follow your store and range?
Wilson: Our website is TimberlineFirearms.us. That’s the best way to get ahold of us. We’re a very friendly and inclusive range that invites everyone to come out and explore the shooting sports in a safe and responsible way. That’s our motto. We are all about safe and responsible firearms ownership.