A divided federal appeals court struck down California’s concealed weapons rules on Thursday, saying they are in violation of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. By a 2-1 vote, the three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said California was wrong to require applicants to show “good cause” to receive a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Under current state law, “good cause” must typically go beyond personal safety.
“The right to bear arms includes the right to carry an operable firearm outside the home for the lawful purpose of self-defense,” Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote in the opinion for the majority.
Judge Sidney Thomas dissented, writing that the “good cause” requirement limited the number of people carrying concealed handguns in public to those legitimately in need.
“It limits the risk to public safety by reducing the number of guns in public circulation, but allows those who will most likely need to defend themselves in public to carry a handgun,” Thomas wrote.
The majority disagreed with other federal appeals courts that have upheld similar laws in New York, New Jersey and Maryland. The decision did agree with an appellate court in Illinois, however, which struck down that state’s absolute ban on concealed weapons in public. The split among courts increases the chance that the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the issue.
Awarding concealed weapon permits is the responsibility of each of California’s 58 counties, which have to follow state rules for that process. The San Francisco-based appeals court said those requirements were too strict and ran afoul of a 5-4 landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2008 that struck down a Washington, D.C., handgun ban and said law-abiding citizens are allowed to have handguns in their home for self-defense.
The appeals court on Thursday reinstated a lawsuit filed in 2009 by Edward Peruta, who challenged San Diego County’s denial of a concealed weapons permit.
KQED’s Charla Bear spoke with both Larry Rosenthal, a professor of law at Chapman University, and with Chuck Michel, who represents the National Rifle Association.
The ruling, said Rosenthal, would allow concealed weapons permits to be “issued the same way driver’s licenses are issued.” That, though, won’t happen tomorrow.
Michel noted that inevitably the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually decide the issue of concealed weapons; it’s just a question of if they’ll hear this particular case on the topic. In the meantime, the decision is likely to be appealed and, even if upheld, won’t affect day-to-day permitting until it goes into effect.
What effect that will have is a topic of much debate.
Rosenthal argued that this ruling would make it “extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the police to act preventively when they see people carrying guns in public or in criminal hotspots.” That can make it particularly challenging for law enforcement officers in urban settings, he said, because they will not as easily be able to distinguish between criminals and those carrying concealed weapons legally.
But, Michel, said that absolutely isn’t true.
The problem isn’t the people who are getting concealed weapons permits legally, he said, but those criminals who wouldn’t be going through the state process anyway. In 42 states that already allow concealed weapons permits without restrictions, “it just hasn’t turned out to be a problem,” he said. In each of these places there have been fears about increases in gun violence or crime. “Those have just turned out to be hysterical predictions that didn’t come true,” he said.
Associated Press contributed to this report.
Read the ruling below: