FIND GUN LAWS BY STATE

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR Bryan L. Ciyou is a trial and appellate attorney at the Indianapolis law firm of Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. He earned his BA with distinction and graduated through the honors program, along with his JD,... Read More

If You Advertise Your Gun-Related Business: Be Aware of “Electioneering Communications” Or Face Severe Penalties

The key focus of GLBS is educating trade groups, gun shops, individuals, and anyone with an interest about the legal aspects of gun-related issues. Most of the time, these focus on the individual. As a collective, American gun owners purchase more firearms at a higher profit margin that all other police agencies and military organizations combined.

Moreover, individual gun owners are most likely to run afoul of mainstream-to-esoteric gun laws because they do not have either lawyers on staff or a given trade group to advise them of risk across the spectrum of gun ownership. This blog post focuses on a very narrow segment of the gun industry, but one where dealers and small manufacturers can incur significant risk.1

Precisely, this is such put forth an “electioneering communication” within 30 to 60 days before an election. Under the laws and rules of the Federal Election Commission, an “electioneering communication” made by an individual, partnership or certain business entity must contain certain disclosures or run afoul of federal law. Without these disclosures, politically slanted advertisements or announcement are not an exercise in free speech.2

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Thus, a simple ad about an “‘O’ Gun” or “‘R’ Gun” made in the requisite time by a gun shop to entice patrons to purchase firearms before the election is likely an “electioneering communication” if it is made within the requisite time before an election.

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) made such a distinction between free speech and electioneering because the communication in such an ad for the gun shop refers to a clear identified federal candidate, the President, by his name, nickname, or because it makes an unambiguous reference to the person or the status as a candidate.3 With respect to the latter, a phrase such as, “the Democrat candidate for re-election to the Presidency” is sufficient.

However, to be an “electioneering communication” it must be publicly distributed by television, radio, cable or satellite.4 The “electioneering communications” rules apply only to communications that are transmitted within 60 days prior to a general election (which is coming right up) or 30 days prior to a primary election, even if the office is unopposed.5

Thus, a gun store running a feature on getting an “O” gun within 60 days of the presidential election would be making an “electioneering communication” if the communication targets the relevant electorate and if it can be received by 50,000 or more people in the district of voters.6

In the event your business may advertise in such a way and through such a medium it may be deemed an “electioneering communication” , you must file an FEC Form 9. This form discloses the particulars of the individual, person, or corporation making the “electioneering communication”. In addition, the FEC provides some useful resource material to guide you by contacting them at info@fec.gov.

This may not seem like a big deal to an individual or small town gun shop, doing a local radio ad, but it is. During every election, members of both parties monitor the included mediums of communication. Rest assured that if you make an “electioneering communication” without the properly filed FEC Form 9, you will get an inquiry from the Federal Election Committee.

Given severe criminal and criminal penalties, this deserves careful attention. At a minimum even if the FEC or DOJ does not pursue the case, it will only be after thousands of dollars are spent in legal fees. Obscure yes. Relevant to a broad spectrum of the individuals and gun shops that support the small arms industry–again yes!

Do not ignore any ad you might place before the Presidential election. If it could be an “electioneering communication”, you should take great care to complete the proper disclosure or make your ad generic. Failure to do so is an invitation to action by the FEC.

If this blog post has helped you as an individual or gun shop owner understand that an “electioneering communication” may pose your risk and is worthy of consideration, then it has met its goal. Many otherwise lawful gun owners run afoul of local, state or federal laws simply because there are so many, so many of which are not intuitive.

Peritus Holdings, Inc., the owner of the Firearms Network, encourages a free and open exchange of ideas by guest blog posts to provided various educational perspectives on the topics within the firearms’ community. However, placement of any such blog post on any of our sites, including this blog post, is not an official endorsement of the good and service and any and all use and reliance by readers is at their sole discretion and should be independently evaluated.

  1. 11 C.F.R. 114.14(b).
  2. Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC 551U.S. (2007)..
  3. 11 C.F.R. 100.29(b)(2)..
  4. 11 C.F.R. 100.29(b)(3)(i)..
  5. 11 C.F.R. 100.29(a)(2).
  6. 11 C.F.R. 100.29(b)(5)..

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FIND GUN LAWS BY STATE

Table of Contents

About the author
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Bryan L. Ciyou is a trial and appellate attorney at the Indianapolis law firm of Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. He earned his BA with distinction and graduated through the honors program, along with his JD,... Read More