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Flagstaff City Council is in a dispute with a gun store over an advertisement

By Lauren Gilger
Published: Friday, September 22, 2023 - 11:22am
Updated: Saturday, September 23, 2023 - 9:25am

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What does the First Amendment say when it comes to advertising in city-owned spaces? What about when that advertising depicts something some people might consider violent?

Those questions and more are at the center of a controversy in Flagstaff this week, where the City Council is in a dispute with a local shooting range.

It all began when city staff rejected an ad submitted by Timberline Firearms and Training to play at the Flagstaff Pulliam Airport. The ad is a 10-second clip that includes footage of a person shooting an assault-style gun at a paper silhouette shaped like a person.

City staff said the ad might make people uncomfortable and that it went against their policy that restricts advertisements that depict "violence or antisocial behavior."

Timberline Firearms and Training building
Timberline Firearms and Training
Timberline Firearms and Training in Flagstaff.

But Timberline Firearms owner Rob Wilson says it’s a clear violation of his First Amendment right to free speech. Now, the council is considering a new policy, one that more explicitly restricts advertisements that depict firearms.

The Show heard from people on both sides of the issue.

Wilson explained why he plans to fight the City Council’s efforts to restrict his ad.

The City Council took a very different view when it came to their role in regulating what should and shouldn’t be shown in city-owned buildings.

Council members reject the idea that they’re restricting Wilson’s First Amendment rights and plan to move forward with their proposed advertising policy.

Flagstaff Councilman Jim McCarthy talked to The Show about the council's position.

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