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Flagstaff, AZ, Censors Navy Veteran’s Gun Range Ad—Goldwater Fights Back

October 24, 2023

There’s a harmless ad that the city government of Flagstaff, Ariz., doesn’t want you to see, and the city is violating the Arizona Constitution to keep it out of the public eye.

Flagstaff recently banned Navy veteran Rob Wilson from advertising for his indoor gun range at the local airport—an illegal violation of the freedom of speech. Today, Goldwater Institute attorneys stood up for Rob’s constitutional rights and demanded that the city stop its illegal censorship.

Rob’s silent, 10-second spot promoting Timberline Firearms & Training has appeared thousands of times on a loop—with no complaints—since he started running it alongside other local businesses’ ads over the Flagstaff Pulliam Airport baggage carousel in 2019.

But this year, when Rob reached out to city staff about running his ads again during the busy summer tourist season, things were different. Officials informed Rob that his ad’s brief depictions of responsible, recreational firearm use violated the city’s ban on showing “violence or antisocial behavior.” What’s more, the city ignored Rob’s requests to appeal this nonsensical decision and instead got to work crafting a new airport advertising policy specifically meant to target Rob and his business. Under the proposed new policy, businesses can’t run any ad that “promotes, solicits, or markets… weapons, firearms, ammunition, or fireworks, or depicts such products, goods, or services.”

Rob is passionate about firearms education, and his ad has brought countless guests, including many first-time shooters, to Timberline, the only indoor shooting range in Flagstaff, to learn about proper gun safety and shooting technique.

“Denying my right to advertise is simply wrong,” Rob says. “After serving 22 years on active duty to defend the Constitution, I’m not about to sacrifice my rights.”

That’s why the Goldwater Institute sent the city a letter today demanding it change course. Goldwater’s letter asserts that the city’s refusal to run Timberline’s ads violated Arizona’s constitutional protections for free speech and due process—and that its new advertising policy would illegally censor entire swaths of constitutionally protected speech.

Watch Rob’s ad below:


When a city operates a public facility, it cannot use that authority to censor messages or viewpoints it disagrees with. But that’s just what the city of Flagstaff is doing: abusing its power to push an anti-gun agenda.

“The city of Flagstaff shouldn’t be picking winners and losers,” Rob adds. “The city government was elected to represent us, not dictate to us.”

Unfortunately, local governments frequently try to suppress viewpoints they don’t like. But the Goldwater Institute has won numerous victories, in Arizona and throughout the nation, on behalf of Americans who fought back. We’ll keep working to protect free speech, uphold constitutional rights, and hold governments accountable.

John Thorpe is a Staff Attorney at the Goldwater Institute.



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