California carry bill pits gun control groups against police associations

Don Petersen

A California state Senate committee took its first look on Tuesday at legislation that would create a host of new “gun-free zones” in California, raise the cost to apply for a concealed carry license, establish new training requirements, and other changes designed to do an end run around the Supreme Court’s decision in NYSRPA v. Bruen.

While gun control activists are fully on-board with SB 2’s restrictions on legal gun owners (as you’d expect), the legislation is meeting opposition from many police officer associations around the state. Check out the list of supporters and opponents listed by the Senate Judiciary Committee in its legislative analysis of the bill.

The California State Sheriffs’ Association submitted written opposition to SB 2 as well; pointing out that, far from respecting the Supreme Court’s decision, the bill is designed to chill peaceable gun owners’ right to bear arms.

Overall, and despite the inclusion of some provisions that came at our request, this approach remains a significant restriction on the ability of law-abiding citizens to be licensed to carry concealed. The circumstance of a CCW holder committing a crime is exceedingly rare yet this bill imposes overreaching provisions that will likely be challenged in court, leaving uncertainty in issuance procedures. Instead of focusing on a law-abiding population, efforts should address preventing gun crimes committed by those who disobey the law and holding them accountable.

To address the holding of the United States Supreme Court in Bruen, which struck down “good cause” requirements in CCW statutes, a bill could have been offered that simply eliminated that constitutionally infirm provision. Instead, SB 2 creates an unnecessarily complicated, burdensome, and overreaching licensing scheme that invites judicial scrutiny and seems destined to be struck down, in part or in whole. The new workload resulting from vetting procedures and a codified judicial appellate process for persons denied a CCW license will burden issuing authorities, court officers, and the judiciary toward little to no increase in public safety.

SB 2 also fails to resolve the longstanding issue of not being able to record joint ownership of a firearm. By not accommodating persons who lawfully and jointly own a firearm to be able to list that same firearm on multiple CCWs, the law will likely encourage the proliferation of gun purchases. Further, the bill greatly restricts when and where licensees may carry concealed and could severely restrict the exercising of the right. Again, individuals who go through the process to carry concealed legally are exceedingly unlikely to violate the law, yet SB 2 turns much of the state into “nocarry” zones that will do nothing to foster public safety.

That analysis is spot-on, even if it’s not going to persuade the Democratic supermajority in Sacramento to chart a new course on concealed carry; one that actually recognizes we’re dealing with a fundamental civil right.

As the sheriffs point out, however, SB 2 is going to be challenged in court if it becomes law and isn’t likely to stand up to judicial scrutiny. California’s anti-gun legislative majority may be intent on giving SCOTUS a middle finger in response to the Bruen decision, but the Supreme Court is going to have the last word on the issue.

Supporters of SB 2, meanwhile, are giving the courts some ammunition to shoot down the anti-carry bill. Here’s a portion of the testimony submitted in favor of the legislation by Everytown/Moms Demand Action.

California is a national leader in gun violence prevention policy, and in 2022 alone, the legislature passed over a dozen important gun safety bills. However, the Court’s decision [in Bruen] risks compromising those hard-won gains by making it easier for more people to carry concealed guns in California communities and likely leading to significantly more guns in public places. In recent news articles, San Francisco Sheriff Miyamoto stated the city is processing 72 applications and expecting 100-200 more over the next year, up from only processing 4 concealed carry license applications in approximately the past decade. In San Diego, news reports indicate that the county processed approximately 1,900 concealed carry permit applications in 2021, but received almost 5,500 applications for permits in the six months after the Bruen decision. As our state continues to experience horrific mass shootings, an onslaught of daily gun violence, and a spike in hateful armed extremism (including extremist demonstrations right here in California) more people carrying guns in public is the absolute last thing we need.

The Supreme Court says the right to carry a firearm in public in self-defense is a fundamental right. Everytown and their fellow anti-2A activists are explicitly basing their support for SB 2 on the fact that it would prevent many responsible California gun owners from exercising that right. As the gun control org helpfully points out, none of California’s gun control laws have prevented mass shootings and an “onslaught” of violent crimes, yet their point of view is that Californians should be left defenseless if they become the target of an armed robber, carjacker, or other bad actors.

Sadly, they’re likely to get their way, at least in the immediate future. SB 2 may even be slightly amended as it makes its way through the legislature in the hopes of making it more difficult for the courts to overturn, but as long as its fundamental premise is predicated on preventing Californians from accessing their Second Amendment right to bear arms in self-defense SB 2’s shelf-life is likely to be pretty short… especially if the Supreme Court weighs in on similar restrictions already being challenged in states like New York and New Jersey.