Today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued one of its most significant gun law rulings in more than a decade, tossing out New York state’s tight restrictions on who can carry a concealed gun in public.
Gun rights activists are celebrating the decision, while advocates for stricter gun laws decry it. Both agree that California’s similar law may be next to be challenged.
The ruling likely marks the most dramatic expansion of gun rights in the United States since 2008, when the Supreme Court clarified for the first time that the Second Amendment’s right “to keep and bear” firearms applies to individual citizens, not just state militia members. But that ruling only affirmed the right for “self-defense within the home,” leaving states with wide discretion over whether and how to restrict guns elsewhere.
This ruling brings that constitutional right outside the home.
Most states either issue concealed carry licenses upon request or do not require licenses at all. But in eight states, applicants are required to show a compelling need before being granted permission to tote around a concealed firearm. Until today’s ruling, New York was one of those states. California is another.
How easily a Californian is able to obtain a concealed weapon permit depends on where they live. That’s because in California these licenses are issued by local law enforcement — either city police chiefs or county sheriffs. And while state law requires applicants to demonstrate “good cause,” local law enforcement officials have wide latitude to define what that means.
In counties with Republican sheriffs — Sacramento and Tehama, for example — permits are issued to all qualified applicants so long as they pay the necessary fees, take a firearms safety class as required by state law and don’t have a criminal record.
San Francisco sits on the opposite end of the spectrum. According to county sheriff guidelines, an applicant living in the city must “supply convincing evidence” that they are at “significant risk of danger” that local law enforcement “cannot adequately address” and “cannot reasonably be avoided by alternative measures.”
The court’s ruling doesn’t immediately invalidate restrictive concealed carry policies like those in San Francisco. But it does make legal challenges against California’s entire discretionary system much more likely to succeed.
Chuck Michel, president of the California Rifle & Pistol Association (the state’s National Rifle Association chapter), said he plans to file a supplemental brief in an existing challenge against Los Angeles County’s concealed carry licensing system.
At the same time the nation’s highest court expands the scope of the Second Amendment, Congress is on the verge of adding a few modest extra guardrails. In response to the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in which a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers with a semi-automatic rifle, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan gun bill on Wednesday over the objections of the National Rifle Association.
If passed by the House of Representatives and signed by President Joe Biden, as is expected, it would ratchet up some background checks for younger would-be gun buyers. It would also provide funding to states interested in introducing “red-flag laws,” which make it easier for authorities to temporarily remove firearms from those deemed to be a threat to themselves or others.
Democratic lawmakers in California are also considering their own raft of new gun bills. That includes legislation that would open gun vendors and manufacturers to an array of lawsuits for violating state gun rules or marketing guns and ammunition to minors or others who aren’t allowed to own them.
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