Just last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a New York State law that required citizens to present a “special need” in order to carry a concealed firearm as unconstitutional. Reverberations were nation-wide as several states, including California, had similar concealed carry permitting laws already on the books.
In light of the ruling from SCOTUS, one would think that states would be sent scrambling to amend their laws or find new ones in order to thwart citizens’ rights to concealed carry. Not California. California Attorney General Rob Bonta and other Democrat lawmakers saw the handwriting on the wall with a now more conservative Supreme Court and had already begun drafting state legislation in addition to advisories to municipal and county government officials to find ways around the anticipated decision from Washington D.C.
The June 23 decision from the U.S. Supreme Court held in a 6-3 vote authored by Justice Clarence Thomas that the New York law and others like them that required concealed carry applicants to cite a specific circumstance or circumstances for their concealed carry application was overly burdensome, and that a general self defense standard was more consistent with the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“The constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense is not a second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees. We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need. That is not how the First Amendment works when it comes to unpopular speech or the free exercise of religion. …And it is not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to public carry for self-defense.”
Other language in the decision appears to call into constitutional question other state laws, including those of California, that define semi-automatic rifles as “assault weapons.”
Yet that is a legal battle for another day. For now, California lawmakers and officials are presently setting the tone for future constitutional skirmishes by using the language of the June SCOTUS decision to craft new laws for addressing concealed carry applications.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta did not waste any time and was first out of the box at a press conference just hours after the June 23 Supreme Court decision was issued.
“We’ve been preparing for this moment … for months,”
His office then issued a formal statement in which Bonta proclaimed,
“California similarly requires applicants for licenses to carry firearms in public to show “good cause,” and is likely unconstitutional under Bruen. But other requirements remain intact. Individuals may obtain a permit through a sheriff or chief of police after: a successful background check, the completion of a firearms safety course, and proof of residency, employment, or business in the county or city within the county. These laws were created and passed with the unique needs of Californians in mind.”
The AG’s message to local California authorities responsible for issuing concealed carry permits used the Supreme Court’s language contained in their decision and advised that permit applicants must still be “law-abiding, responsible citizens,” which in his opinion would allow officials to judge the “moral character” of applicants before granting concealed carry permits.
And Bonta takes the “law-abiding responsible citizen” clause and really runs with it. He goes on to quote the Riverside County Sheriff’s office standards for granting concealed carry applications as being consistent with the Supreme Court decision. A law enforcement issuing office could consider the applicant’s
“trustworthiness, diligence, reliability, respect for the law, integrity, candor … respect for the rights of others, absence of hatred and racism.”
He said an agency could also
“require a search of publicly available information, including social media accounts.”
One need not be a legal scholar to opine that Bonta’s interpretation of the Court’s decision is overly broad and deliberately restrictive. Those in the know appear to concur that Bonta is overreaching here. Sam Parades, Executive Director of Gun Owners of California said:
“These are very subjective criteria, and I’m confident that they, too, will be declared unconstitutional.”
UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh in an online article wrote:
“This strikes me as clearly unconstitutional under the First Amendment, even apart from the Second amendment. The government can’t restrict ordinary citizens’ actions—much less their constitutionally protected actions—based on the viewpoints that they express.”
In addition to Attorney General Bonta’s approach and advisories to permit-issuing government agencies, California state lawmakers are also taking the initiative. Senator Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada-Flintridge) is authoring SB918 which seeks to circumvent the no longer valid “special need” aspect of acquiring a concealed weapon permit, and instead focuses on limiting where concealed weapons can be carried. The bill would restrict guns at all school and college grounds, courthouses and other government buildings, medical facilities, public transportation, public parks and playgrounds, any place where alcohol is sold and consumed, and events requiring public permits, such as demonstrations.
Gun Owners of California’s Parades also addressed SB918.
“It is such a giant patchwork quilt of areas that do not allow carrying of concealed weapons that a lawful citizen cannot travel from one part of a community to the other without breaking the law.”
So, the constitutional battle lines are being set. It would seem that in the wake of the Supreme Court June 23 decision, California lawmakers are throwing everything at the wall to see just what will stick, knowing full well many of their efforts will not pass muster before the courts. And at best, as new laws and edicts are challenged and wend their way through the courts, California officials are simply delaying the inevitable—more citizens legally carrying concealed weapons in the Golden State.
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