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City that barred gun range ads at airport now banning all ads

Nov 29, 2023

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Flagstaff, Arizona, has decided to bar all private advertising at the Flagstaff Pulliam Airport and city recreational spots. The moves comes after Flagstaff Pulliam Airport denied Navy veteran and Flagstaff resident, Rob Wilson, the ability to run his advertisement at the airport for his business, Timberline Firearms and Training Indoor Gun Range.

Only advertising through the Discover Flagstaff program, which advertises local businesses and is funded by city tax dollars, will be permissible.

Wilson said the city told him his shooting range ad violated a city ban on “showing violence or anti-social behavior.” However, no such city ban was ever in place.

Shortly after, Wilson filed a lawsuit, alleging that the city was infringing on his right to free speech as protected by the First Amendment.

Deputy City Attorney Kevin Fincel brought the issue before the Flagstaff City Council in September, hoping to develop a new advertising standard for the airport.

The City Council convened Nov. 14 to discuss the issue.

“It was decided that we need to really take some steps to clarify the standards, and that’s really to provide clear standards,” Fincel said. “Not only in respect to Timberline’s ad, but also, with all of our advertisers.”

During that meeting, the City Council decided to toss out the standards completely, rather than refine them.

Members of the City Council along with the city manager were in agreement that the city doesn’t depend on airport advertising revenue to justify any legal battles it may face in the future.

“I just get a little concerned about people’s interpretation of what may be ‘offensive’ or depiction of something,” said Councilmember Lori Matthews. “So, I’m kind of swaying to just opt-out of any advertising at the airport, and just, I feel that’s a more equitable way to do it so that we’re not having these discussions every time there’s something we didn’t think about.”

The council’s solution now raises more questions. If only Discover Flagstaff can run ads at the airport and recreation areas, does that mean Discover Flagstaff will get to pick and choose which businesses the program highlights to tourists visiting the area?

“I just want to say that if the council gives the direction, I think they just gave, then we want to make sure we do that in a way that complies with the law,” Fincel said.

As for Timberline’s advertising, Wilson spoke to the National Review, and according to the report, said he plans to seek ad space with Discover Flagstaff “to make a point.”

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IN AN UPDATE TO A FREE SPEECH STORY WE BROUGHT YOU EARLIER THIS MONTH…

FLAGSTAFF, ARIZONA, HAS DECIDED INSTEAD OF PERMITTING ADVERTISEMENTS SOME LOCAL OFFICIALS TOOK ISSUE WITH, IT WOULD BAR ALL PRIVATE ADVERTISING AT THE FLAGSTAFF PULLIAM AIRPORT – OR AT CITY RECREATIONAL SPOTS.

ONLY ADVERTISING THROUGH THE ‘DISCOVER FLAGSTAFF’ PROGRAM — WHICH ADVERTISES LOCAL BUSINESSES AND IS FUNDED BY CITY TAX DOLLARS – WILL BE PERMISSIBLE.

THIS ALL COMES IN THE WAKE OF THE FLAGSTAFF PULLIAM AIRPORT DENYING NAVY VETERAN AND FLAGSTAFF, ARIZONA RESIDENT – ROB WILSON – THE ABILITY TO RUN THIS ADVERTISEMENT AT THE AIRPORT FOR HIS BUSINESS – TIMBERLINE FIREARMS AND TRAINING INDOOR GUN RANGE.

WILSON HAD SAID THE CITY TOLD HIM – HIS GUN-RANGE AD VIOLATED A CITY BAN ON “SHOWING VIOLENCE OR ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOR.”

HOWEVER – NO SUCH CITY BAN WAS EVER IN PLACE.

SO, WILSON FILED SUIT CLAIMING THE CITY WAS VIOLATING HIS RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH UNDER THE FIRST AMENDMENT.

THE DEPUTY CITY ATTORNEY BROUGHT THE ISSUE BEFORE THE FLAGSTAFF CITY COUNCIL BACK IN SEPTEMBER.. HOPING TO DEVELOP A NEW ADVERTISING STANDARD FOR THE AIRPORT.

THE CITY COUNCIL CONVENED NOVEMBER 14TH TO DISCUSS THE ISSUE.

(KEVIN FINCEL / DEPUTY CITY ATTORNEY)

“it was decided that we need to really take some steps to clarify the standards and that’s really to provide clear standards, not only in respect to timberline’s ad, but also, with all of our advertisers. timberline really just made us look at it closer..”

(Lauren Taylor)

THE CITY COUNCIL DECIDED TO NOT MAKE THE STANDARDS CLEAR – RATHER – THEY TOSSED THEM OUT COMPLETELY.

MEMBERS OF THE CITY COUNCIL ALONG WITH THE CITY MANAGER WERE IN AGREEMENT – THE CITY DOESN’T DEPEND ON AIRPORT ADVERTISING REVENUE TO JUSTIFY ANY LEGAL BATTLES THEY MAY FACE IN THE FUTURE.

(LORI MATTHEWS / CITY COUNCILWOMAN)

“I just get a little concerned about people’s interpretation of what may be ‘offensive’ or depiction of something. so, I’m kind of swayed to just opt-out of any advertising at the airport and just, I feel that’s a more equitable way to do it so that we’re not having these discussions every time there’s something we didn’t think about.”

(Lauren Taylor)

THE COUNCIL’S SOLUTION NOW RAISES MORE QUESTIONS.
IF ONLY ‘DISCOVER FLAGSTAFF’ CAN RUN ADS AT THE AIRPORT AND REC AREAS – DOES THAT MEAN ‘DISCOVER FLAGSTAFF’ WILL GET TO PICK AND CHOOSE WHICH BUSINESSES THEY HIGHLIGHT TO TOURISTS VISITING THE AREA?

AND IS THIS NOW GOING TO OPEN UP THE CITY TO A SLEW OF LITIGATION IF THE CITY SHOWS FAVORITISM FOR ONE BUSINESS OVER ANOTHER?

(KEVIN FINCEL / DEPUTY CITY ATTORNEY)
“I JUST WANT TO SAY THAT IF THE COUNCIL GIVES THE DIRECTION, I THINK THEY JUST GAVE, THEN WE WANT TO MAKE SURE WE DO THAT IN A WAY THAT COMPLIES WITH THE LAW.”

(Lauren Taylor)

AS FOR TIMBERLINE’S ADVERTISING – WILSON SPOKE TO THE NATIONAL REVIEW – AND ACCORDING TO THE REPORT — SAID HE PLANS TO SEEK AD SPACE WITH DISCOVER FLAGSTAFF “TO MAKE A POINT”.