(Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Guns. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

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:

Ninth Circuit Court Decision on Concealed Weapons

  • check your facts

    Larry Rosenthal’s stated argument against a change in the restrictions on CCW permits is so incredibly flawed. The doomsday scenario that he describes, where arming law-abiding citizens is somehow a problem for law enforcement efforts is ludicrous.

    Regarding the change itself, it simply prevents local law enforcement from restricting law abiding citizens’ rights to carry concealed firearms in public by removing the requirement that applicants must provide “good cause”. In numerous counties in California, local law enforcement deny CCW permits when the applicant’s sole stated reason for obtaining a permit is self protection; the change prevents this from occurring.

    Furthermore, the comparison he makes between getting a driver’s license and of the process of obtaining a CCW permit is totally invalid, and is an example of fear-mongering hyperbole. The typical California CCW permit process requires 8-24 hours of firearms training, and the applicant must fill out part of the form with a witness at the local Sheriff’s office. In Sonoma County, if the application passes initial review, the next step requires fingerprinting of the applicant, followed by a DOJ/FBI background check. In the event that this part of the process is successfully passed, the applicant must provide three letters of character reference, along with a doctor ’s letter confirming suitability of the applicant. In all, the whole process can take 30-90 days to be completed; how is this anything like the process for obtaining a driver’s license?

    Larry Rosenthal has no business spreading misinformation on KQED, and shame on KQED for not checking the facts before airing this interview.

  • Frequentshopper

    I am quite certain CA counties have been issuing CCW permits to the well connected, their friends, and retired law enforcement.

  • Gryff

    There is a fundamental flaw in this report. What is not being struck down is the “good cause” requirement so much as it is the fact that each sheriff (and/or police chief) gets to decide what a good cause is in their jurisdiction. Elected officials should not have the power to arbitrarily decide whether or not you can exercise a Constitutional right.

    By requiring a “Shall Issue” system (every law-abiding citizen has a right to receive a permit) is a far more fair and politically unbiased process than a “May Issue” (the chief law enforcement official may issue a permit if they decide your reason meets their political standards). Additionally, a person applying under the Shall Issue system still needs to have their criminal record vetted by the FBI and state crime databases (AND their fingerprints are entered into the law enforcement system, making it more likely that they are caught if they commit a crime).

    In Fresno county, because the Sheriff is politically conservative, a woman with no criminal record will receive a License to Carry if she claims she needs it for self defense. This is perfectly acceptable mentality, especially if she has been threatened with violence or death by an unstable ex- or if there have been a string of rapes in the region. But that same woman will NOT receive the permit for that reason in Alameda or San Francisco counties because of the Sheriff’s politically liberal philosophy that only politicians or well-known actors should receive permits.

    More than thirty five states have switched to Shall Issue system, and FBI crime statistics have repeatedly demonstrated that murder rates have NOT been increasing in those areas (the rates have actually been falling in all of them). Despite the media and anti-Second Amendment crowd’s love to play the Trayvon Martin card, there is substantial documentation that a person with a License to Carry is statistically less likely to get into an alteration than one who doesn’t have a permit.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor