PHOENIX (AP) — Ads saying “guns save lives” have begun appearing again this month at Phoenix bus stops after being the subject of a four-year battle between city officials and a local activist, the Arizona Republic reported (http://bit.ly/VpOr6D ).
The ads for a gun-safety training website overseen by gun-rights advocate Alan Korwin have been placed at bus shelters this month in downtown and northeast Phoenix.
Korwin said he plans to observe whether the city tries revising policy so officials can broadly decide what type of ads get exposure.
“They didn’t want ‘Guns Save Lives’ in the public eye,” he said. “You can’t ban speech based on content, and that’s what they want to do.”
The state Court of Appeals ruled in May that the city violated Korwin’s constitutional protections when it removed the ads in 2010. The three-judge panel said in its ruling that the city unconstitutionally applied its transit-advertising standards when it denied Korwin’s ads. The court’s opinion overturned a Maricopa County Superior Court ruling siding with Phoenix.
The city had argued that Korwin was promoting political speech that would have created controversy, potentially sparked protests, stirred accusations of political favoritism and affected transit revenue.
The Goldwater Institute, a conservative government watchdog group in Phoenix that represented Korwin, said the city’s standards were too vague and could be arbitrarily enforced.
Matthew Heil, a city spokesman, said the city is still reviewing the ruling and declined to comment. “It’s still a work in progress. We’re still working through what those implications would be,” Heil said.
The appeals court ruling could possibly open the door for others to argue that cities and other entities cannot ban political or public-service messages from government-owned advertising spaces.
The ads will stay through November, Korwin said. He is now also looking at expanding his promotional advertising to newspapers and highway billboards.
Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com