Maryland Shall Issue, Inc. v. Anne Arundel County, Maryland
In 2022, Anne Arundel County, Maryland, enacted an ordinance requiring sellers of guns and ammunition in the County to provide literature to their customers regarding suicide prevention and nonviolent conflict resolution. In response, Maryland Shall Issue, Inc., and four firearms retailers brought suit against the County, arguing that the ordinance constituted unlawful compelled speech under the First Amendment. The United States District Court for the District of Maryland ruled in favor of the County, concluding that the regulation is reasonably related to the County’s interest in preventing suicide and violence and not unduly burdensome. The plaintiffs subsequently appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
On July 14, 2023, CAC filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Anne Arundel County. Our brief makes two main points.
First, we explain that commercial entities can be required to inform persons about their products and related risks consistent with the First Amendment. In Zauderer v. Office of Disciplinary Counsel, the Supreme Court held that it is constitutional to require attorneys to include “purely factual and uncontroversial information” about their fees in advertisements because the state rule was “reasonably related” to the government’s proffered interest in preventing consumer deception. Recently, in NIFLA v. Becerra, the Supreme Court explained that it did “not question the legality of health and safety warnings long considered permissible, or purely factual and uncontroversial disclosures about commercial products.” The disclosures at issue here fall squarely within those categories of disclosures.
We also argue that MSI’s interpretation of the First Amendment could threaten a vast array of commonplace disclosure laws used by all levels of government. These requirements, covering topics from pharmaceuticals to gambling to firearms, give individuals necessary information to make choices regarding how best to protect themselves and their families. As such, they further the principal justification for extending First Amendment protection to commercial speech: “the value to consumers of the information such speech provides.” MSI’s interpretation of the First Amendment could place these and many more targeted requirements at risk.
In sum, Anne Arundel County’s requirement that sellers of guns and ammunitions provide literature to their customers regarding suicide prevention and nonviolent conflict resolution does not violate the First Amendment. Concluding otherwise would prevent lawmakers from empowering consumers to make fully-informed decisions that protect themselves and their families.
CAC files an amicus curiae brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.Fourth Circuit Amicus Brief