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US Federal Judge Stops California Carry Restrictions

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A Christmas Tree, a gavel, and a US flag

On Wednesday, December 21, US Federal District Judge Cormac Carney issued a preliminary injunction, blocking California’s unconstitutional “sensitive places” gun-free zones enumerated in SB2.

In the wake of the Bruen Supreme Court decision last year, many states, including New York, New Jersey, and California, have passed laws attempting to block lawful concealed carry permit holders from exercising their Second Amendment rights by defining “sensitive places” where guns may not be carried. In most cases, the sensitive places are so broadly defined as to include virtually all places the average person visits in the course of a normal day. The restricted areas have virtually no analogue in the historical context of the country’s laws prohibiting where and when firearms may be carried.

In the Reno May et al. v. Bonta decision yesterday, George W. Bush-appointed Judge Carney begins by citing the US Constitution:

“The right to self-defense and to defend one’s family is fundamental and inherent to our very humanity, irrespective of any formal codification. In their wisdom, the Founders recognized the need for individual citizens to protect themselves and their loved ones from those that would do them harm—and they knew that such a right could not be vindicated without the right to bear arms. The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees law-abiding, responsible citizens the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense in case of confrontation.”

Judge Carney applied the Bruen test, identifying American citizens wanting to exercise their Second Amendment rights (implicating the text of the Second Amendment), and then shifting the burden to the State to prove that such restrictions had or have a historical analogue from the time of our founding. The State, of course, was unable to furnish such analogues.

The restrictions imposed by California law identified the following list of prohibited places:

  • Hospitals, mental health facilities, nursing homes, medical offices, urgent care facilities, and other places where medical services are customarily provided,
  • Public transportation,
  • Establishments where intoxicating liquor is sold for consumption on the premises,
  • Public gatherings and special events,
  • Playgrounds and private youth centers,
  • Parks and athletic facilities,
  • Department of Parks and Recreation and Department of Fish and Wildlife property, except hunting areas,
  • Casinos and gambling establishments,
  • Stadiums and arenas,
  • Public libraries,
  • Amusement parks,
  • Zoos and museums,
  • Churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship,
  • Financial institutions, and
  • Any other privately owned commercial establishment that is open to the public, unless the operator clearly and conspicuously posts a sign indicating that license holders are permitted to carry firearms on the property.

If that list looks familiar to our readers, it is because it is virtually identical to the list of sensitive places that New Jersey included in its Bruen response bill, signed into law one year ago tomorrow.

Throughout his opinion, Judge Carney points out that law-abiding, vetted permit holders are the only ones being impacted by the California law. Quite interestingly, Judge Carney cites the New Jersey case, Koons v. Platkin, in making his point:

“Simply put, CCW permit holders are not the gun wielders legislators should fear. Indeed, CCW permit holders are not responsible for any of the mass shootings or horrific gun violence that has occurred in California. See Koons v. Platkin, 2023 WL 3478604, at *108 (“And herein lies the problem: despite ample opportunity for an evidentiary hearing, the State has failed to offer any evidence that law-abiding responsible citizens who carry firearms in public for self-defense are responsible for an increase in gun violence.”

Judge Carney points out what every law-abiding citizen knows as a point of common sense:

“Contrary to this interest, SB2 requires that law-abiding citizens open themselves up for slaughter at the hands of people flaunting the law and creates numerous areas ripe for mass murder by ensuring there is no one there to protect people…”

In a simple and elegant conclusion to his 43-page opinion, Judge Carney states:

“The challenged SB2 provisions unconstitutionally deprive this group of their constitutional right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense. Therefore, those provisions must be preliminarily enjoined.”

Legal scholars point out that it’s highly likely the State will appeal the case to the left-leaning 9th Circuit, which will likely stay the injunction. However, this is one of many cases mounting a body of legal challenges to unconstitutional law specifically addressing the Second Amendment, all in opposition to the Bruen decision issued in 2022. The Supreme Court will be compelled to act in its own self-interest at some point.

The case was brought by Second Amendment Foundation, Gun Owners of America, Gun Owners Foundation, Gun Owners of California, the California Rifle & Pistol Association, and eleven private citizens. Attorneys Chuck Michel, Sean Brady, Kostas Moros, and Donald Kilmer represented the plaintiffs.

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