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California gun owners vow to fight ruling limiting concealed weapons permits

Los Angeles Times logo Los Angeles Times 6/9/2016 Maura Dolan and Brittny Mejia
In this April 30, 2016 file photo, a Gun Guy Tactical instructor prepares to load a revolver during the live fire portion of a enhanced concealed carry class sponsored by Crestview Baptist Church for members and area residents in Petal, Miss. © Rogelio V. Solis In this April 30, 2016 file photo, a Gun Guy Tactical instructor prepares to load a revolver during the live fire portion of a enhanced concealed carry class sponsored by Crestview Baptist Church for members and area residents in Petal, Miss.

California gun owners can be denied permits to carry concealed firearms in public unless they show a specific necessity for a weapon, a federal appeals court decided Thursday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, overturning a 2014 ruling, said in a 7-4 decision that the Second Amendment does not give people the right to carry a concealed gun.

“The Second Amendment may or may not protect to some degree a right of a member of the general public to carry a firearm in public,” wrote Judge William A. Fletcher, a Bill Clinton appointee. “If there is such a right, it is only a right to carry a firearm openly.”

Gun owners said they expect to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court and also would challenge California’s law banning residents from carrying guns openly.

California law has allowed county law enforcement agencies to set rules that limit permits for concealed guns. Some rural counties have relaxed rules and make permits easily available, while most urban counties have stricter rules.

Gun owners in San Diego County filed a lawsuit after they were denied permits for concealed weapons. Although they were trained in gun use and had met background checks, the applicants could not cite compelling reasons for why they needed the guns.

The first 9th Circuit panel that considered the challenge said concealed weapon permits must be granted because the state had banned carrying guns openly in public.

A 2012 California law took away the right of residents to carry unloaded guns in public with ammunition toted separately. Gun owners argued that the ban, in addition to county restrictions on concealed weapons, made it impossible to defend themselves in public.

In a dissent Thursday, Judge Consuelo M. Callahan, a Ronald Reagan appointee, argued that depriving citizens of the right to carry a weapon in public — both openly and concealed — violated the Constitution.

California counties’ “limited licensing of the right to carry concealed firearms is tantamount to a total ban on the right of an ordinary citizen to carry a firearm in public for self-defense,” wrote Callahan, who had been on the 2014 panel.

“While states may choose between different manners of bearing arms for self-defense, the right must be accommodated,” she wrote.

Chuck Michel, the lawyer for the gun owners in the case, said his clients were disappointed but not surprised “given the political inclinations of the judges on this panel.”

He noted the ruling failed to decide whether California must permit residents to carry guns openly if they are prevented from carrying them concealed. The issue in the case involved the concealed carrying of weapons, and the court did not reach the question of whether the ban on openly carrying guns violated the Constitution.

“California law bans open carry, so the constitutionality of that ban will now be tested in a new legal challenge,” Michel said.

The 2014 ruling prompted counties to hurriedly examine their policies for granting concealed gun permits. Most kept their policies in place, but the Orange and Ventura county sheriff’s departments relaxed their rules, leading to a flood of applicants.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department changed course again after the 9th Circuit decided to review the panel’s 2014 decision with an 11-judge panel. Applicants in Orange County now need to state safety concerns and provide supporting documentation in order to receive a concealed carry permit.

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