Gun rights advocates faced a barrage of tough questions from an 11-judge appeals court Tuesday on the politically hot issue of whether private citizens have a right to carry concealed weapons for personal protection.
During more than an hour of questioning, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel assessed whether to resurrect the San Diego County sheriff’s limits on the ability of citizens to gain permits to carry a concealed weapon for self-defense.
The sheriff limited conceal carry permits to people who submitted a statement of “good cause” for the need to have a weapon along with supporting evidence.
Last year a three-judge panel invalidated the strict standards saying they violated the Second Amendment rights of private citizens to carry a weapon for self-defense.
Dozens of groups, including gun rights advocates and gun control supporters, have weighed in on the challenge to the law by Edward Peruta and other San Diego residents. A similar case arising from Yolo County was argued at the same time.
The two cases carry broader implications for the state because sheriffs in other counties have similar policies, including Alameda, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
“Can the sheriff require a safety course?” asked Judge Barry Silverman.
Yes, according to attorney for plaintiff Edward Peruta, “We don’t take issue with the licensing scheme” but he did take issue with what amounts to “good cause” to issue permits.
One prior case held that the right of people to bear arms is “not infringed by concealed carry” restrictions, said Judge Susan Graber. “With that, almost black letter law statement, what does that do to your case?”
Clement said he did not believe the San Diego policy would survive “any form of heightened scrutiny” by the court.
“What do we do with the Second, Third and Fourth Circuits?” in which the appeals courts said very similar limiting statutes survive intermediate scrutiny asked Judge Richard Paez.
Alan Gura, also on the Peruta side, had a tough time even making his argument while being repeatedly interrupted by Judge N. Randy Smith about whether the case could even survive given California’s recent changes in its open carry law.
“Your client could open carry and unloaded weapon and ammunition. Does your case live or die on that change,” Smith asked.
“No, the case is stronger,” Gura responded.
Edward Dumont, attorney for the state of California, which entered the fray late when the San Diego sheriff chose not to appeal, argue that the state has a rich history of limits on carrying of concealed weapons in cities and towns.
“Outside cities you are free to carry open and loaded,” he said adding, you can’t walk down streets, into parks or other public places” with concealed weapons.
Yolo County attorney John Whiteside pointed out that California allowed people with permits to carry loaded weapons on private property with the permission of the owner. Under the new law, if you get a permit to carry it can only be an unloaded weapon, he said.
Concealed weapons could be carried on the street, with a permit, under the old law, but now they must be in a locked box, he said.
The change in the law appeared to trouble both Judge Smith and Judge Connie Callahan.
Case: Peruta v. County of San Diego, No. 10-56971