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Gun Range v. Government Censorship

February 12, 2024

U.S. Navy veteran Rob Wilson spent more than 20 years defending the U.S. Constitution. But when Rob found his own constitutional rights violated after the Flagstaff, Ariz., government banned him from advertising for his shooting range at the local airport, he turned to the Goldwater Institute.

Goldwater got right to work demanding that the city stop its illegal censorship–and in a matter of weeks, the Institute vindicated Rob’s free speech rights.

You can learn more about Rob’s story in this new Goldwater Institute video

“Having something like the Goldwater Institute who can use the expertise they’ve developed over all the years of their success and apply that to these circumstances for me, on my behalf, is priceless, because I could not do this on my own,” Rob says in the video.

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.

“The airport is our way to really connect to some of those five million tourists coming here over that baggage claim belt while you’re waiting for a suitcase,” Rob says.

But last year, when Rob reached out to city staff about running his ads again during the busy summer tourist season, officials tied themselves in knots to pursue an anti-gun agenda. The city 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—one that bans all firearms-related ads.

Rob was incensed. It’s a “direct infringement on my First Amendment rights and my ability to conduct my business successfully,” he says. “The emotional opinions of the city council have resulted in my family business not being able to advertise during our peak season here in Flagstaff.”

That’s when Goldwater stepped in to serve up a dose of justice. We sent the city council a letter demanding it change course, asserting that the city’s refusal to run Timberline’s ads violated Arizona’s constitutional protections for free speech and due process.

Knowing that their unconstitutional actions wouldn’t stand up in court, city officials had no choice but to back down—and that’s exactly what they did.

Unfortunately, governments at all levels—municipal, state, and federal—frequently try to suppress viewpoints they don’t agree with. But the government can’t just silence you because they don’t like what you’re saying. That’s why Goldwater is constantly helping Americans like rob fight back against censorship that threatens their liberty. Whether it’s restoring free speech on college campuses, protecting donors’ right to support causes they’re passionate about, or preventing compelled speech, we’ll never stop keep working to protect free expression, uphold constitutional rights, and hold governments accountable.

“They do such a great job of defending our Constitution,” Rob says of the Goldwater Institute, “and it’s such an important job.”



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