California city's "sensitive places" subject of new lawsuit

It’s a local ordinance, but the city of Glendale, California’s ban on concealed carry on vast swathes of public property could have national implications thanks to a new lawsuit filed by a coalition of 2A groups. This week the California Rifle & Pistol Association, Gun Owners of California, and the Second Amendment Foundation launched new litigation that’s aimed directly at the huge number of public locations deemed “sensitive places” off-limits to those with valid concealed carry licenses. The case is also a backchannel way to prevent the state of California from adopting similar standards statewide, as CRPA president Chuck Michel made clear when announcing the filing of the lawsuit.

This past legislative session, California legislators tried to pass SB 918 which would have made it almost impossible to carry a firearm in the state of California by declaring just about every place a “sensitive place.” CRPA and GOC defeated this bill in the waning hours of the legislative session, but that won’t stop anti-2A legislators from bringing it back next legislative session.

We are not going to sit by and wait for California to try to strip you of your rights. We are striking while the iron is hot and filing a federal lawsuit that will challenge the constitutionality of “sensitive place” laws under the recent Bruen test.

If you remember, Bruen specifically warned jurisdictions against trying to limit the ability to carry a firearm by using this tactic of making the entire state a “sensitive place” where firearms are prohibited. Gavin Newsom, in utter defiance of the Supreme Court, tried it anyway.

One of the anti-gun bills that Newsom was able to sign into law was a measure that makes plaintiffs liable for the state’s attorney’s fees if they challenge a state-level gun control law and fail to have it overturned; something that was clearly designed to have a chilling effect on Second Amendment-related litigation. That law is facing a court challenge of its own, but by going after a local ordinance that bears a striking resemblance to what legislators want to impose statewide, the pro-2A groups have found a way to hopefully head off the impending restrictions on legal gun owners before the legislature has a chance to put their stamp of approval on unconstitutional infringements on the right to bear arms.

According to the Second Amendment Foundation’s Alan Gottlieb, Glendale’s ordinance goes far beyond the “sensitive places” outlined by the Supreme Court in the Bruen decision; polling places, courthouses, schools, and legislative assemblies. In Glendale, concealed carry is banned in all city parks, plazas, and “open spaces” owned by the city, as well as “eight public libraries, three downtown parking structures and other city-owned or operated parking lots, the Glendale Civic Auditorium and civic center complex,” as well as an “unknowable amount of properties in the possession of private companies under contract with the city.”

“Our lawsuit is blunt,” he continued. “The Glendale ordinance is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has made it clear that the right to keep and bear arms for personal protection extends outside the home. As we note in our complaint, the burden is on the city to prove that all areas falling within the definition of ‘city property’ are so-called ‘sensitive places,’ and they cannot do it.”

I’m sure they’ll try, but it’s going to be impossible to find analogues in history to the broad bans on concealed carry in place across the city. And if the courts strike down Glendale’s “sensitive places” as unconstitutional, that will hopefully provide a bit of a firewall against California lawmakers slapping the same “sensitive places” label on similar locations throughout the state.

This lawsuit is valuable in another way as well. While I’d like to think that the Supreme Court is going to take an interest in New York’s post-Bruen carry laws, the Court only accepts a handful of cases every year. The more challenges to these overly broad “sensitive places” statutes there are, the better the odds that SCOTUS will grant cert in one of them, especially if we end up with a split among the appellate courts.

Before that happens, however, we’ll have to see what the city of Glendale does in response to this litigation. Will they double down on their expansive list of “gun-free zones” or attempt to modify the number of “sensitive places” in the hopes of avoiding a court challenge that could end up setting precedent across the Ninth Circuit? My guess is that they’ll choose to fight it out in court, but the city’s response is due in just a few weeks so we won’t have to wait too long to learn the city’s next steps.