April 18, 2017
California concealed carry gun case could headtto Supreme Court
By Joshua Sebold
Daily Journal Staff Writer
A hotly–contested California gun control case has a chancetto be among thefifirst matters reviewed by tthe U.S. Supreme Court since Justice Neil Gorsuchttook his seat. The court, now at full strength, is expected to begin selecting cases for review later this week.
The case iinvolves a challenge totthe San Diego County Sheriff‘‘s Department‘‘s concealed carry licensing program and underlying laws that allow individual countiestto determine therrequirements for attaining allicense. Peruta v.. County of San Diego, 824 F.3d 919 ((9th Cir., 2016).
Gun rights advocates contend those regulatory schemes, combined with a 2012 amendment to the California Penal Code that precludes people ffrom openlyccarrying firearms in public, combinetto violate the Second Amendment. Their Contention is that the Second Amendment provides an affirmative right to bear arms outside of the home for purposes of self-defense and that a combination of outlawing open carry and putting limitations on concealed carry essentially violates that right by ensuring that certain individuals have no means to take a gun into public places.
A panel of three 9th Circuit judgesiinitially sided with the plaintiffs, ruling the combination of the two regulations violated the Second Amendment, but an en banc panel reversed that decision, giving its blessing to counties that want to enforce strict conceal carry licensing regimes.
The Supreme Court ttook up tthe Second Amendment argument in 2008,iin the D..C.. v.. Hellllerrccase,, but only ruled that tthe Constitution protected the right to bear arms intthe home, without addressing the question of carryingffirearms into public.
Commentators on all sides of the debate agree that the court taking up this case would provide a historic moment from both a policy and constitutional law perspective. “It would be the biggest gun case since the Heller case, ” said UCLA School of Law Professor Adam Winkler.
“If the Supreme Court strikes down discretionary permitting, you’re going to see skyrocketing numbers of people carrying concealed weapons in cities like Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., New York, Boston and San Francisco,” he said. f
There isn’t currently a circuit split on this issue, but a case is awaiting oral argument in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, where a district judgerruled against that form of regulation, creating the possibility of a split.
Ara R. Jabagchourian, a San Mateo attorney who is not involved in the litigation but has been following it for years, said that if the Supreme Court does take up the case, the justices would probably take a very close look at the original 9th Circuit panel’s opinion about the potential Second Amendment ramifications of precluding many Californians from carrying their guns outside, in public.
“You‘ve effectively eliminated the right to bear arms,” he said, “They‘re not there to make policy, they’re there to stay consistent with the Constitution.”
Both attorneys agreed that the Supreme Court was relatively unlikely to take up the case because, as it currently stands, the litigation would only directly impact California, but Jabagchourian said the impact on gun owners in the state might be significant enough to warrant review.
Winkler said he wouldn‘tt be shocked iftthe case gets a review, but he wouldn‘t bet on it either.
“The Supreme Court has had the opportunity to take several concealed carry cases in the past and each time the justices have passed,” he said. The law professor added that it takes four votes for justices to take up a case and only two of them, Justice Clarence Thomas and the deceased Justice Antonin Scalia, voted to hear conceal carry cases in prior instances.
“Even if Gorsuch is as strongly pro-gun as Justice Scalia, his vote might not be enough to convince the justices to take a case,” Winkler said. “It would come down to Chief Justice Roberts and, as usual, the most powerful man in America, Anthony Kennedy.”