California concealed carry laws could be out the window under SCOTUS decisionJune 23, 2022
California’s concealed-carry permitting rules will almost certainly become more lax under a U.S. Supreme Court decision Thursday nullifying a similar framework in New York — although Democratic elected officials quickly moved to take advantage of where the high court allowed them fortify their laws.
Within hours of the court’s decision to strike down New York’s rules, Democratic Attorney General Rob Bonta and state lawmakers announced legislation that would bar concealed firearms in places like courthouses and schools and require applicants to undergo assessments for whether they are dangerous to others, which could include checking for criminal records and restraining orders. Lawmakers said they hoped to move the bill through the Legislature and to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk as quickly as possible.
Like New York, California has given local law enforcement some discretion in issuing permits — a commonality that Justice Clarence Thomas specifically noted in his opinion. California law requires sheriffs and police departments to consider whether applicants are morally upstanding and have cause for a permit, in addition to imposing a training requirement.
The California Department of Justice said the court’s decision invalidates the state’s rule that applicants must show cause for obtaining a permit, although Bonta said he believed the court allowed requirements like background checks or mandatory safety training.
Newsom, a staunch advocate for rigorous gun restrictions, said in a statement that California would “update and strengthen our public-carry law and make it consistent with the Supreme Court ruling, just as Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kavanaugh said states like California are free to do.”
The difficulty of getting a concealed carry permit tends to vary in California, with law enforcement in more urban and populous counties applying the ‘good cause’ standard more rigorously than officials in more conservative precincts. The Supreme Court ruling will likely do away with the requirement entirely.
A mass shooting last month at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas has intensified California Democrats’ determination to further strengthen the state’s robust gun laws. The high court’s decision drew condemnation from California Democrats — Newsom in a tweet Thursday excoriated a “dangerous decision from a court hell bent on pushing a radical ideological agenda and infringing on the rights of states to protect our citizens” — but their hands may be tied.
More court challenges could follow. The California Rifle and Pistol Association lauded the Supreme Court’s decision and said it planned a flurry of legal action to shift California’s stringent gun control laws, noting it already had various challenges in the court pipeline.
“This is a game changer, and a hard reset for gun control law legal challenges in California, and nationally,” President Chuck Michel said in a statement.
A broader suite of tough California gun control laws could also be in jeopardy. Laws banning high-capacity magazines, prohibiting assault weapons and requiring people to be 21 to purchase semiautomatic rifles are all moving through legal challenges.
The Firearms Policy Coalition specifically vowed to use the court’s reasoning to file “many more important strategic lawsuits,” including seeking to unravel “bans on self-manufacturing firearms and so-called ‘assault weapons’ and ‘large-capacity’ magazines.”
“This decision only has immediate consequences for the few counties in California that currently require concealed-carry applicants to show a special need or proper cause,” David A. Carrillo, executive director of Berkeley Law’s California Constitution Center, said in an email. “But the test the Court applied, which requires courts to assess whether modern firearms regulations are consistent with the Second Amendment’s text and historical understanding, potentially has long-term implications for California’s other gun laws.”
Brady Campaign Chief Counsel Jonathan Lowy said on a call with reporters that he believed California’s prohibitions on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines “should be upheld even under the test announced by the court,” but he acknowledged “there’s a risk.”
“This opinion certainly gives ammunition, if you’ll excuse the phrase, to other conservative, policy-driven judges,” Lowy said.