ACLU FIles Brief In Support Of TrainMeAZ’s Appeal

After the Arizona legislature passed Constitutional carry in 2010, Alan Korwin started a billboard and transit ad campaign called TrainMeAZ to promote gun safety instruction among other things. Unfortunately, the City of Phoenix censored the transit ads by removing them because, in their words, it didn’t meet their ad standards. Korwin promptly sued and was aided in the lawsuit by the Goldwater Institute.

Last October, the trial court found for the City of Phoenix and denied the motion for summary judgement by the Goldwater Institute. The case has been appealed to the Arizona Court of Appeals. Yesterday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed an amicus brief in support of the Goldwater Institute and Alan Korwin.

From the press release announcing the brief:



Unlikely alliance between organizations highlights case’s importance to fundamental freedoms

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the Goldwater Institute’s appeal in Korwin v. Cotton, a free-speech challenge to Phoenix’s transit advertising standards that were applied to remove 50 “Guns Save Live” advertisements from the city’s bus shelters.

“This case has profound implications beyond whether Appellants can post their proposed advertisement on City of Phoenix bus shelters,” the ACLU’s brief argues. “It involves the scope of the Arizona Constitution’s grant to all persons the right to freely speak, write and publish on all subjects.”

The City’s policy forbids non-commercial advertising on city buses and transit shelters. In 2010, plaintiff Alan Korwin and his company, TrainMeAZ, purchased 50 transit shelter ads designed to drive business to their gun-training website. The ads pictured a large heart with “Guns Save Lives,” followed by the group’s website.

Even though the ads were commercial in nature, the City removed the ads, despite approving “Jesus Heals,” Veterans’ Administration, and water-conservation advertisements that did not appear to propose a commercial transaction.

“The City’s arbitrary decision-making is exactly the type of censorship the U.S. and Arizona Constitutions forbid,” said Clint Bolick, Vice President for Litigation at the Goldwater Institute, who characterized the City’s policy as “we sort-of know it when we see it.”

The Maricopa County Superior Court (a lower court) upheld the City’s actions in a 2012 decision. The case is now before the Arizona Court of Appeals.

“This odd-couple alliance between the Goldwater Institute and the ACLU highlights the importance of the case to our fundamental freedoms,” said Bolick.

The case is expected to be argued in the Court of Appeals later this year.

A copy of the ACLU amicus brief can be found here under “Case Documents”:


“I am thrilled to see the ACLU get behind this case,” said Alan Korwin, the Appellant in the case and an ACLU member for decades, “It is the right thing to do. Phoenix was out of its mind to tear down our bus-stop ads in the middle of the night without notice.

I have supported many of ACLU’s efforts on free speech, and they figured prominently in my 12th book about things you’re not allowed to say, Bomb Jokes at Airports.

“This case is about free speech, which is central to everything I’ve been doing as a writer and publisher for nearly three decades,” he said. “It is particularly gratifying though that the substance here is gun safety, at a time when the national scene is dominated by efforts to restrict gun rights for the public.”

Alan Korwin And The 51st State

Alan Korwin is an out of the box thinker when it comes to debates over gun control. His letter to the editor below illustrates that. He equates teachers to the 51st state for concealed carry. Blood didn’t run in the streets when other states got shall issue concealed carry so why, he asks, should armed teachers be any different.

Alan has given permission for this letter to circulate far and wide as well it should.


I knew this sounded familiar — I’ve heard this whole
fear-factor argument about the danger of arming teachers against known
classroom hazards 49 times before. It played every time a state enacted a
discreet-carry CCW gun law for its citizens. It was met with the exact same
prejudice, scorn and derision.

But those blind fears about people
exercising their right to arms have been proven wrong time and again. They
were the empty paranoid rantings and bigotry of the news media, elected
officials and ignorant masses. Their wildly promoted fantasies of death and
mayhem desperately needed correction. What we got, and are getting again,
is repetition.

The sky never fell, remember? Brainless bubbas left
no pools of blood. Instead, crime dropped as millions of decent citizens
armed themselves against crime. Only Mr. Obama’s crime-riddled Chicago
holds out one state from the national tidal wave of peace.

So —
do we really need to go through the old Dodge-City nonsense again now?
Should you in the ethical media remain complicit? Are our schools’
teachers, their staffs and principals so hopelessly incompetent and without
judgment that even with training they can’t match the performance of
toothless gun-toting hicks in torn T-shirts, or even doctors, lawyers and
professionals with CCW permission slips in their wallets?

is not having a debate about guns, America is having a debate about
hoplophobia — morbid fear of guns. The preposterous disarm-the-innocent
proposals from the left are a false flag. Guns are good. Guns protect us.
Guns save lives. Guns stop crime. Guns are why America is still free. That
aspect of this debate is missing in your narrative.

The errant
behavior of a psychopath is not grounds to disarm or infringe upon innocent
people who did nothing. That is an irrational, sick, hoplophobic response
that cannot work, and cries out for compassion and counseling — for the
person who suggests it. You don’t want hoplophobes setting gun policy any
more than you want aquaphobes as lifeguards.

Infringing upon the
innocent to protect the innocent will not work. Denying a teacher the right
to arms is a perverse policy choice fraught with ulterior motives and is
constitutionally forbidden. Its very suggestion is a violation of
the oath of office for elected officials and should be grounds for removal
from office. Reporters should recognize this simple fact as swiftly as half
the public does. The tearful emotional frenzy incessantly whipped up by the
media does not change this.

Baby boomers universally remember
rifle teams in high schools, varsity letters awarded for competition,
bringing firearms to class to go hunting afterwards. The notion that guns
and schools don’t mix, and that gun ignorance should supplant gun education
is a modern one whose origin is murky and suspicious.

disarmed-teachers policy currently in place has caused grievous harm. Those
responsible for this gross denial of a specific enumerated civil right
should be identified and held accountable, and the disarmed-teachers policy
should end without delay.

Denial of human rights never advances
the cause of freedom or the human condition. It is almost as if we are
fighting the civil-rights battles of the 1960s again. A bill to reverse the
egregious discrimination against the people responsible for our children’s
safe education should be drafted and introduced immediately before further
harm ensues.

Alan Korwin, Author
Gun Laws of America
Uninvited Ombudsman

Report – Demand Letters On Multi-Rifle Sales To Start August 14th

Alan Korwin, who publishes a number of books on gun laws in the states, is reporting that August 14th is the start date for the demand letters from ATF to Southwestern FFLs. In an email alert sent out on Monday night (July 25th), he reports:

According to four BATFE agents familiar with the planned Fast and Furious
gun-smuggling “fix,” the bureau plans to release a “demand letter” by the
end of this week, insisting that gun dealers in the four Mexico-border
states begin reporting multiple rifle sales to the bureau.

All multiple rifle sales made to the same buyer within a five-day period
will have to be reported beginning on August 14, on a form to be announced,
according to the agents.
The order will exclude rifles in .22 caliber, and
rifles without detachable magazines. The agents acknowledged that
congressional action, lawsuits, an injunction or other court orders might
forestall the implementation of the hastily concocted scheme. Such
preventive measures are already underway.

The rumored executive order to require gun dealers in California, Arizona,
New Mexico and Texas to begin reporting multiple rifle sales to BATFE will
not be issued. A previous Page Nine report that referred to the expected EO
now appears incorrect. It is possible that the uproar over the program
caused the administration to change its approach, and put all the heat on
BATFE to “enact” law without Congress. The EO was widely reported and

An exhaustive examination of statutory authority under which BATFE is
required to operate revealed no legitimate power to demand these records,
though the agents claimed they do have authority (two younger ones said
they have no control over the process, and were simply following along).
When questioned if they would consider resigning if asked to implement an
illegally introduced rule, the agents all either declined to answer or said
no, they would not resign.

Because a buyer will have to be identified to show that the sales reflect
purchase by one person, the record collections will be a gun registry tied
to gun ownership, which is strictly forbidden under federal law. No
requirement to destroy these records exists, since no authority to collect
the records exists. The BATFE agents said they would not be keeping the
records, because they “lack authority,” but could not identify a time frame
in which the registry information would be destroyed, or any audit trail.

When pressed, the senior official identified a statute that supposedly
conveyed authority for the daring plan. The citation is to 18 USC
which states:

“Each licensee shall, when required by letter issued by the Attorney
General, and until notified to the contrary in writing by the Attorney
General, submit on a form specified by the Attorney General, for periods
and at the times specified in such letter, all record information required
to be kept by this chapter or such lesser record information as the
Attorney General in such letter may specify.”

This does not confer the needed authority, because “all record information
required to be kept by this chapter” does not include multiple sales of
long guns to the same person in a five-day period. The agent disagreed. In
fact, Congress specifically excluded such information when it enacted, by
due process, a statute requiring similar information for handguns in the
same law, in 18 USC §923(g)(3)(A):

“Each licensee shall prepare a report of multiple sales or other
dispositions whenever the licensee sells or otherwise disposes of, at one
time or during any five consecutive business days, two or more pistols, or
revolvers, or any combination of pistols and revolvers totalling two or
more, to an unlicensed person.”

In addition to the creation of this illegal reporting requirement, illegal
gun-owner registry, with unknown details and no public control over the
rule-making process, it amounts to record keeping specifically banned under
the Firearm Owners Protection Act, 18 USC §926(a)(2):

“No such rule or regulation prescribed after the date of the enactment of
the Firearms Owners Protection Act [5/19/86] may require that records
required to be maintained under this chapter or any portion of the contents
of such records, be recorded at or transferred to a facility owned,
managed, or controlled by the United States or any State or any political
subdivision thereof, nor that any system of registration of firearms,
firearms owners, or firearms transactions or disposition be established.”

Like so many laws the federal government writes, this one declares that
these acts cannot legally be done, but provides no specific punishment for
perpetrators, such as those running this scheme inside BATFE. Laws could be
written with teeth, to control bureaucrats. Instead of saying, “No one may
collect this information,” the law could say, “Anyone who collects this
information shall go to prison and pay a fine.” Given the common abuses now
prevalent in government, such laws have been needed for a long time, on a
state and local level as well as federally, some legislators say. Any
legislator unwilling to draft laws that way, allowing “officials” to do
whatever they please without consequence, deserve to be removed from
office, according to leading experts.

Phoenix Sued For Censoring Gun Training Billboards

The Goldwater Institute filed suit yesterday against the City of Phoenix for censoring and removing billboards that promoted gun safety and training. The lead plaintiff in the case of well-known author and activist Alan Korwin.

From the webpage set up to give details on the case:

Korwin v. Cotton (Bus Shelter Ads case)

On May 11, 2011, the Goldwater Institute filed a lawsuit on behalf of Alan Korwin and TrainMeAz LLC to challenge the decision by Debbie Cotton, director of the Phoenix Public Transit Department, to remove posters at 50 bus shelters advertising the company’s website. Ms. Cotton has claimed the ads didn’t promote a commercial transaction as required by city policy. Ms. Cotton’s explanation ignores the express purpose of TrainMeAz to make a profit while providing resources to people who want training on self-defense and marksmanship. In addition, the city of Phoenix has no written standards to explain to potential advertisers what specific messages and logos are acceptable at city bus shelters. Ms. Cotton and the city of Phoenix have arbitrarily denied Mr. Korwin’s right to free speech.

How are we upholding the Constitution?

The right to free speech is a fundamental freedom protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court has granted governments leeway in regulating commercial speech and product advertising on public property. But governments must adopt consistent standards that provide potential advertisers fair notice about when their messages might be restricted, and such standards can’t favor some viewpoints over others.

The Arizona Constitution provides an independent right of free speech in Article 2, Section 6: “Every person may freely speak, write, and publish on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right.” This lawsuit upholds the sovereign authority of a state to protect more liberty and further restrict government censorship beyond what is required by the U.S. Constitution.

What happened to bring about this challenge?

In 2010, the Arizona Legislature repealed a requirement to have a state-issued permit before carrying a firearm concealed from public view. Alan Korwin saw a business opportunity to help people who want to safely exercise their right to own and carry weapons. Mr. Korwin worked with training instructors and other organizations to create, a website devoted to providing information about weapons safety training and locations to practice shooting skills. The business raises money by selling sponsorships to other companies for expanded promotion on the website, advertising in printed maps, and other sources of revenue.

TrainMeAz launched an advertising campaign in mid-2010 to attract customers to the website that included roadside billboards [2]. Mr. Korwin also signed a contract with CBS Outdoors, a private vendor hired by the City of Phoenix to manage advertising at city-funded bus shelters. On Oct. 11, 2010, CBS Outdoors placed an advertisement for the website at 50 bus shelters.

On Oct. 20, 2010, CBS Outdoors informed Mr. Korwin that the City of Phoenix objected to the bus shelter posters. In a telephone conference call, city officials told Mr. Korwin the posters didn’t comply with a written requirement [3] that bus shelter advertising only be used for speech that “proposes a commercial transaction.” However, city officials were unable to provide Mr. Korwin with any standards that would explain what kind of messages would meet that requirement.

Meanwhile, CBS Outdoors removed the posters at the city’s direction before the expiration of TrainMeAz’s contract.

What does Goldwater Institute want from this legal challenge?

The Goldwater Institute is asking a judge to strike down the City of Phoenix Transit Advertising Standards under the free speech protections of the Arizona and U.S. constitutions. Phoenix should be required to develop constitutional standards that make clear beforehand what kind of advertising will be approved, so all businesses are treated fairly and none will be subject to potential censorship based on a city official’s subjective views. As an alternative, the TrainMeAz poster should be considered acceptable advertising under the existing standards and allowed to appear on City of Phoenix bus shelters.

Who is the client?

The Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation represents Alan Korwin, a Phoenix resident and manager of TrainMeAz, a limited liability company with a website devoted to providing customers with information about gun safety training and locations for practicing their skills.

What are the key issues?

The TrainMeAz poster clearly complies with the requirements of the city of Phoenix for bus shelter advertising.

The poster promotes a for-profit business website where legitimate commercial activity takes place every day. The poster doesn’t include any information listed as unacceptable in the Phoenix Transit Advertising Standards [3]. The poster deals with an issue, firearms ownership and use, which the city routinely approves for advertising such as upcoming weekend gun shows.

The city of Phoenix’s written standards to explain what types of advertising would be acceptable for city bus shelters are unconstitutionally vague.

The Phoenix Transit Advertising Standards [3] list several specific items that bus shelter ads cannot advocate including false or misleading information, violence, tobacco, alcohol, and obscene language. But the standards provide no explanation about what ads are acceptable except to say they must propose a commercial transaction. This provides little guidance to potential advertisers about what messages will be accepted or rejected by the city. Clear standards are required under the Arizona and U.S. constitutions to prevent arbitrary discrimination by government officials against messages they don’t like.

Whom are we suing?

Debbie Cotton, in her official capacity as director the Phoenix Public Transit Department, enforces the advertising rules at city bus shelters.

The City of Phoenix, as its official actions must comply with the Arizona and U.S. constitutions.

Can we win?

The City of Phoenix must comply with the First and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which requires the city to provide equal protection of every person’s constitutional rights. Also, the city cannot interfere with those rights without due process of law.

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has provided Phoenix significant leeway in regulating advertising for city bus shelters under federal law. But the Arizona Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled the Arizona Constitution provides protections for speech that are even broader than the First Amendment.

Case Timeline

May 11, 2011: Complaint filed in Maricopa County Superior Court

The Legal Team

• Clint Bolick is the Goldwater Institute’s litigation director. He has extensive success before trial judges and appellate courts. He has won two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He was named as a Lawyer of the Year in 2003 by American Lawyer magazine.

• Christina Kohn worked to advance liberty as a law clerk at the Pacific Legal Foundation in California and a research intern at the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy before joining the Goldwater Institute as an attorney in 2010. Christina earned her law degree from Michigan State University College of Law, where she served as notes editor of the law review and president of the campus Federalist Society.

• Carrie Ann Sitren strives to defend property rights, enforce fiscal responsibility, and protect school choice. A graduate of the Wake Forest University School of Law, she also has been a strong advocate for public access to information about government policies before final decisions are reached, using Arizona’s public records law to compel city governments to release key documents that they would prefer to keep hidden.

A high-resolution sample of the censored bus-stop ad can be found here.