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October 5, 2022

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Rap Lyrics Hypocrisy

By Larry Keane

California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom was quick to sign a law that banned any advertising that could potentially be attractive to youths. Gun ads, he believes, might warp young minds. He is whistling a different tune, though, when it comes to rap lyrics. Turns out, any mention of violence, crime or lawlessness is just fine.

Gov. Newsom sees himself as the arbiter of First Amendment-protected free speech. In his mind, it is the lawful firearm industry – and any advertising related to youth hunting or shooting sports – that is responsible for the gun crimes committed by criminals in California where his district attorneys refuse to prosecute. Words matter to Gov. Newsom, except when they happen to be rap lyrics.

Preferred Speech

Gov. Newsom hosted a video bill signing for AB 2799 and was joined by several hip hop artists. The bill, titled the Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act, prevents prosecutors from using violent and descriptive rap music lyrics in criminal court cases against criminals who have broken the law. In addition, AB 2799, requires “a court, in a criminal proceeding where a party seeks to admit as evidence a form of creative expression, to consider specified factors when balancing the probative value of that evidence against the substantial danger of undue prejudice.”

“Artists of all kinds should be able to create without the fear of unfair and prejudicial prosecution,” Gov. Newsom said. “California… is taking a nation-leading role to protect creative expression and ensure that artists are not criminalized under biased policies.”

Those following the governor’s castigation of free expression by the firearm industry might by suffering cognitive dissonance. There certainly is plenty of non-violent rap music, but it is no secret that much of it also contains violent, descriptive language. Crimes are bragged about, including criminal firearm misuse against law enforcement.

To Gov. Newsom, these are “artistic creative expression” and should be protected by the law. Commercial free speech by gun manufacturers, not so much.

Criminalizing Kids

Gov. Newsom previously signed AB 2571, as “a way to save lives by banning firearms advertising to children.” He released a video while holding a .22-caliber rifle, pointing it at the cameraman, laughably calling the firearm a “weapon of war” and decrying the firearm industry for “openly marketing” the lawful firearm.

It is an absurd line of attack against the firearm industry by Gov. Newsom. To him rap lyrics are fine and the artist should be protected. “Of course it’s not their fault if someone else acts out the violence they describe in their music.” Firearm manufacturers, though, are held responsible for criminal violence in California because they advertise to parents and adults about youth hunting and shooting sports.

For gun control schemers, their message is clear. Only some creative or artistic expression is worthy of legal protections, but not all. Violent rap lyrics qualify. Nonviolent firearm advertisements do not.

Youth Safety

Gov. Newsom youth hunting and shooting sports advertising ban had a near-immediate impact. The California State High School Clay Target League folded up shop after the bill became law. The program cited the possibility of facing $25,000 civil fines on “firearm industry members” advertising “any firearms-related product” in a way that could be seen as “appealing to minors.” The group regularly advertises target shooting competitions and trainings to members and prospective members.

Gov. Newsom recently signed AB 160, to allow for firearm safety, “communication offering or promoting any firearm safety program, hunting safety or promotional program” as well as membership in youth shooting leagues or clubs.

For Gov. Newsom, some creative speech is perfectly acceptable, even if violent, descriptive and dangerous and should be protected. Other creative free speech that is neither false, misleading, deceptive nor immoral is abhorrent and unacceptable and should be punished and banned.

The difference is not based on principles – it is just Gov. Newsom’s gun control bias.

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