The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court in California ruled Thursday that a rigorous “good cause” requirement when applying for a concealed carry permit was too strict and violated Second Amendment rights. The power to issue concealed carry permits to gun owners falls to each individual county in California and these counties have the authority to set the procedures under which a permit may be obtained.
Before today’s Circuit Court decision, law-abiding gun owners in San Diego County had to jump through excessive hoops and demonstrate personal need in order to obtain a concealed carry permit. Further “good cause’ was assessed on an individual basis rather than an objective application of the Second Amendment. In San Diego County, under the “good cause” requirement, applicants had to be in circumstances that differentiated them from the mainstream public. If law enforcement did not recognize those circumstances as valid, their concealed carry permit was denied.
The main point of contention in this case was that general self-defense was not considered by San Diego County law enforcement to be a viable reason to issue a concealed carry permit. Instead, applicants had to have “special needs” that demonstrated they were in potential danger and because of that danger they might be put in a position where they would have to defend themselves. In some cases, gun owners were required to produce documentation such as a restraining order or letters from law enforcement in order to have their application approved. This resulted in law-abiding San Diego residents being denied permits even after having met the “training” and “moral character” requirements.
The question posed by the Circuit Court was whether California law allowed responsible, law-abiding citizens the right to “…bear arms in public for the lawful purpose of self-defense.” Although the 2-1 decision was not unanimous, Circuit Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain reiterated what seems obvious to gun rights advocates and questionable to gun control groups. According to Judge O’Scannlain, the Second Amendment gives citizens the right to carry an operable firearm. Further, this includes carrying a firearm outside the home if it is for the purpose of self-defense. Thus, San Diego County’s excessive “good cause” requirement that denied conceal carry permits based on self-defense needs alone violated the Second Amendment.
The dissenting vote on the Circuit Court decision came from Judge Sidney Thomas who was against it on public safety grounds. In his judgment, the number of people carrying concealed handguns needs to be limited to only those citizens who would, “most likely need to defend themselves in public.” Judge Thomas’s minority opinion seems to fly in the face of the legal right to bear arms although there are many gun control groups that consider that right at least antiquated if not subject to modification to fit modern times.
Judge Sidney Thomas also believes today’s Circuit Court decision “…upends the entire California firearm regulatory scheme.” Whether that is the case or not, striking down California’s excessive “good cause” requirement makes the point that under the Second Amendment, California can either ban concealed carry and allow open carry or vice versa but they cannot use excessive regulations to completely prohibit citizens from bearing arms outside their homes.
While law-abiding citizens in California still have to pass a background check and meet training and moral character requirements, stating that the concealed carry permit is for purposes of self-defense will now suffice as “good cause”. Chuck Michel, legal counsel for the National Rifle Association is pleased that the government “no longer gets to pick and choose” which citizens who, having met all other requirements, are able to “exercise their constitutional right to carry a firearm for self-defense.” Further, he believes that lives will be saved because, “No longer will criminals have the security of knowing that their victims are defenseless in public.”
By Alana Marie Burke
United States Courts for the Ninth Circuit
Los Angeles Times
Wall Street Journal