Concealed carry bill gets another chance
Five months after the death of a high-profile gun control bill amid Democratic power struggles in Sacramento, California lawmakers are trying to revive legislation to strengthen the state’s restrictions on who can carry loaded firearms in public.
The law was introduced in response to a US Supreme Court ruling that ruled restrictive concealed carry laws unconstitutional. The 6-3 ruling by the court’s conservative majority in June led New York, California and a handful of other blue states to rewrite their laws governing how people obtain concealed-arms licenses.
Gov. Gavin Newsom and a coalition of top-ranking Democrats rushed to get behind a bill last year that they said would uphold the Supreme Court’s ruling preventing states from making people show a “special need” for concealed carry permits, while continuing to adhere to a strict protocol for issuance to them.
But gun rights advocates won a rare and unexpected victory on the last night of the legislature when disputes among Assembly Democrats undermined the measure.
Newsom promised to work with lawmakers this year on another proposal, Senate Bill 2. saying, “We’re going to work through it. And I am confident that we will make it.”
Newsom, State Senator Anthony Portantino (D-La Canada Flintridge) and Atty. General Rob Bonta plans to hold a press conference in Sacramento on Wednesday to detail how this year’s version will be signed into law. The new version of the law includes a procedural change from last year’s bill that will make it easier to pass.
The Democratic trio is expected to argue that a recent spate of mass shootings in the state warrants bold action and seek to differentiate between California’s gun laws and those in Republican-run states like Texas and Florida, the latter of which has legislation in place Consider allowing residents to carry concealed firearms without a permit.
But instead of changing the legislation to respond to criticism that it is too restrictive to meet the Supreme Court’s newly defined constitutional standard, Democrats are moving forward with essentially the same bill as before.
“Our goal is to make the Californians safe,” Portantino said. “We meet this at all levels because it warrants this. And Californians are demanding that we do it.”
Portantino’s bill, like last year’s bill, includes a long list of so-called sensitive locations where guns would be banned, such as government buildings and schools, medical facilities, public transportation, places of worship, parks, playgrounds and bars.
It also requires a robust licensing protocol that local officials – mostly sheriff’s departments – must follow when issuing permits, including interviewing applicants in person, obtaining three-digit references, and checking social media and other publicly available statements to identify security risks.
The bill also bans concealed carry licenses for anyone under the age of 21, the same age required to purchase a handgun in California, and adds new regulations for firearm training and storage.
Proponents say these rules would thread the thread between complying with the court’s decision and ensuring guns stay out of the hands of dangerous individuals. But it’s a risky strategy.
The Supreme Court decision in the New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn. vs. Bruen focused on whether “May Issue” laws were constitutional — laws that gave licensing authorities wide discretion over who could carry a firearm in public. Most states have “must-enact” laws on their books, meaning that permits are granted once an applicant meets the permitting criteria.
Firearm owners had argued that New York’s requirement for applicants to show a “proper reason” for a permit — such as for self-defense — violated their 2nd Amendment rights. The six conservative Supreme Court justices agreed, repealing the law as a violation of a person’s right to self-defense outside the home, immediately declaring California’s standard of “good cause” similarly objectionable.
Judge Clarence Thomas wrote for the court that these laws “prevent law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to bear and bear arms.”
States could still ban firearms in or near some limited sensitive locations that have historically been off-limits and are therefore “populated,” Thomas wrote, including schools, government buildings or polling stations. In a joint opinion, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. argued that states are still generally permitted to require objective eligibility criteria such as firearms training, fingerprinting, and background and mental health checks.
Portantino said SB 2 follows the court’s guidance on sensitive locations and licensing rules and that the legislation falls within those outlined legal boundaries.
Sam Paredes, managing director of Gun Owners of California, disagreed.
Paredes said the bill’s licensing provisions are unconstitutionally subjective and the extensive list of sensitive locations would effectively designate the entire state as a gun-free zone, making a concealed carry license “useless in California.”
He is one of several gun rights advocates who plan to sue the state over SB 2 if it is signed into law.
“We’re ready to challenge absolutely anything,” he said. “You will have to change some directions. If they don’t, they will force us to go to court to win again. And we are ready for that.”
That could get interesting.
Courts are still trying to figure out how to interpret the Bruen decision with what little guidance the Supreme Court has, said Andrew Willinger, executive director of the Duke Center for Firearms Law.
New York, for example, is again facing significant legal challenges against a new concealed carry law it passed after the Bruen ruling, which gives an idea of how things might go in California if SB 2 is passed.
Bonta signed a legal letter with other attorneys general last month asking a federal court in New York to let the law stand, arguing that strict rules on concealed carry “keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and out of places where.” People gather to travel, live and work.”
Certain provisions of the California bill, which is very similar to the updated New York law, could pass constitutional scrutiny more easily, Willinger said, including training requirements, some of the sensitive locations and the requirement for character references.
Ultimately, though, Bruen “leaves a lot of those questions open,” he said.
Adam Winkler, a UCLA professor and constitutional law specialist, said arguments against the number of places covered by the California’s bill might address a good point. Some places could be really sensitive, he said, like schools. But a judge could rule that “the cumulative effect of all these restrictions is too great”.
“I think there are legitimate concerns that law-abiding people will end up breaking the law unknowingly,” Winkler said.
Bonta, who helped draft the legislation, said the bill starts on a solid footing, but acknowledged that changes might be added or some elements removed during the legislative process to ensure it survives a legal challenge.
“[2nd Amendment groups] think Bruen outlawed every gun law in the state of California. And they’re just wrong,” Bonta said. “You can spend money on litigation and challenge laws. We will defend them. That is our task.”
“How prepared are we to defend the laws of the State of California? I’d love to,” he added.
Lawmakers likely won’t vote on SB 2 until the spring, when the committee hearings begin in the Capitol. The biggest change from last year’s bill is that Portantino removed an urgency clause that allows bills to be enacted quickly before the end of the year if they get a two-thirds majority in both houses of the legislature.
The urgency clause led to the bill’s demise in the assembly last year when it fell two votes short of the required threshold, even as Bonta, Portantino and their allies spent hours in the back of the chamber canvassing a handful of Democrats for their vote.
Portantino said he was more optimistic about passing the bill with a wave of new members recently sworn into the legislature backing promises to end gun violence and the exit of several moderate Democrats who opposed the previous one action had taken.
The urgency clause could be added back at any time, he said.
“We will use the time wisely to make the strongest draft constitution that will protect most Californians,” he said.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2023-02-01/california-concealed-carry-gun-law-supreme-court-ruling Concealed carry bill gets another chance