Law-abiding Californians may carry concealed weapons in public, a federal appeals court held Thursday, in a sweeping repudiation of the state’s regulation of concealed weapons.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals split 2-1, to strike down San DiegoCounty’s restrictions on carrying concealed weapons as a violation the Constitution’s Second Amendment.
The ruling is a blow to California’s weapons regulation, which has some of the strongest gun ownership limits in the country.
This may not be the last the circuit hears of the case. The two-vote majority came from two members of the conservative wing of the court, Judges Diarmuid O’Scannlain and Connie Callahan. The dissenting judge was liberal Sidney Thomas. The full court could be asked to entertain a move for reconsideration by the full court.
An en banc review may be likely because O’Scannlain’s opinion disagrees with rulings by the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Circuits, creating a circuit split. By the time an en banc vote is taken, if it is successful to grant review, Thomas could be Chief Judge and automatically on the 11-judge rehearing panel.
In dissent, Thomas says the majority never answers the question of whether San Diego’s “good cause” policy is constitutional. “Instead, in a sweeping decision that unnecessarily decides questions not presented, the majority not only strikes down San DiegoCounty’s concealed carry policy, but upends the entire California firearm regulatory scheme.”
He said that although the majority derides the “good cause” requirement as an “arbitrary, overbroad rationing system,” it is a system to determine who actually needs firearms for self-defense.
California delegated control of issuing permits for concealed weapons to city and county governments, so long as applicants could show a good cause for seeking the permit and were of good moral character.
Since 1999, the San Diego County Sheriff has required applicants to provide documentation to demonstrate “good cause” for carrying a concealed weapon, such as restraining orders, letters from law enforcement or a some showing of a pressing need for self-protection.
By contrast, the open carrying of a weapon, whether loaded or unloaded, is prohibited in San DiegoCounty. In general, carrying concealed weapons is not allowed throughout the state, with some exceptions: peace officers, military, retired law enforcement and on private property and where hunting is allowed.
Five residents wanted to carry concealed guns for self-defense were denied concealed-carry licenses in San Diego and sued, attacking the “good cause” requirement.
The lower court sided with the county without deciding the Second Amendment issue.
“The Second Amendment secures the right not only to ‘keep’ arms but also to ‘bear’ them,” O’Scannlain wrote.
He said the right to carry brings to mind “a woman toting a small handgun in her purse as she walks through a dangerous neighborhood, or a night-shift worker carrying a handgun in his coat as he travels to and from his job site.”
Not only has is the right an individual right, but it is also oriented to self-defense, O’Scannlain said.
Case: Peruta v. County of San Diego, No. 10-56971