There’ve been hints that this was coming for a while now, especially if you follow attorney Kostas Moros on X/Twitter, where for months he’s been documenting the lengthy delays and draconian requirements some police departments in California are imposing on applicants for concealed carry licenses. On Monday afternoon, the complaints became official with the filing of a federal lawsuit against the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, the La Verne chief of police, and California Attorney General Rob Bonta.
The California Rifle & Pistol Association, Second Amendment Foundation, Gun Owners of America, Gun Owners Foundation, and Gun Owners of California are bringing the case along with seven individual plaintiffs; all of whom allege that both local and statewide regulations on the application process for a concealed handgun permit are imposing “excessive wait times, exorbitant fees, and suitability criteria that are unnecessary, burdensome, and subjective”… including a challenge to California’s law that prevents residents from other states from obtaining a permit while not recognizing licenses issued by any other state.
The initial complaint lays out a litany of issues with the state’s post-Bruen carry regime, including the “exorbitant poll tax-like fees, egregious wait times lasting well over a year, and nefarious discretionary requirements designed to flout the Supreme Court’s precedents.” The lawsuit notes the admission by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department that the average wait time for applicants is about eighteen months, while the cost of applying for a carry license in LaVerne runs between $900 and $1,100.
As the lawsuit points out, while the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of “shall issue” permitting schemes, the justices did note that even those can run afoul of our Second Amendment rights if they impose “lengthy wait times in processing license applications or exorbitant fees [that] deny ordinary citizens their right to public carry.” I’d say waiting a year-and-a-half for permission to exercise a fundamental civil right is excessive, especially with a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals panel concluding that Maryland’s 30-day waiting period for a Handgun Qualification License is too long of a delay to comport with the Constitution.
The psychological testing of concealed carry applicants, which is allowed but not required under Califonia law, is also a part of the challenge, with the plaintiffs describing it as an “absurd policy” that’s an outlier, even in California. And with one of the plaintiffs an out-of-state resident who spends lots of time in California and would like access to his Second Amendment rights while he’s there, another absurd policy has also been called into question.
Even if Plaintiffs wanted to avoid delay, expense, and suitability requirements from LASD and LVPD by simply obtaining a carry permit from another state, as some of these Plaintiffs have done, California does not honor permits issued by any other state.
In fact, nonresidents have no way to lawfully carry firearms in California, even if they are willing to apply to a California issuing authority for a permit, because California law does not permit in-state issuing authorities to issue permits to nonresidents.
This is plainly unconstitutional under both Bruen and the precedent established in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644, 648 (2015). If California must honor a broad right to marry, which is unenumerated, then it must also honor the right to carry firearms, which is enumerated.
Each of the individual plaintiffs has a unique story to tell about the impact the state’s carry laws have had on their ability to exercise their Second Amendment rights. Florida resident and PhD candidate Stephen Hoover, for instance, wants to carry when his studies take him to California, but can’t do so. Erick Velasquez, a Los Angeles resident, was denied when he tried to renew his concealed carry permit because he was the victim of a crime in which several handguns were stolen from a range bag in the locked trunk of his car. Clarence Rigali, a 60-year-old who is disabled and living on a fixed income, complains that the four figures LaVerne is charging for a carry permit have priced him out of his Second Amendment rights.
Any one of these individuals (and the four others whose stories can be found in the complaint) would make compelling plaintiffs on their own, but taken together they really do highlight the range of problems that lawful citizens still face when trying to exercise their right to keep and bear arms in jurisdictions that continue to display an outright hostility towards the Second Amendment.
In a release, CRPA president and general counsel Chuck Michel declared that “CRPA has let it be known that across all of California’s 58 counties, we will be vigilant and relentless in our efforts to ensure that post-Bruen CCW policies and procedures are in place and followed,” adding “this is all a part of the CRPA’s CCW Reckoning project. Today’s lawsuit could easily have been avoided if the Constitution was observed and the Bruen decision was followed.”
The Second Amendment Foundation’s Alan Gottlieb, meanwhile, opined that “the process and costs involved seem deliberately designed to discourage people from exercising their constitutional right to bear arms,” calling it “simply inexcusable” that some of the plaintiffs have had to wait for more than a year for their carry license to be approved.
I am so glad to see this lawsuit filed; not only for the Californians who are still being denied their Second Amendment rights but for gun owners across the country who’ve wondered why their Second Amendment rights stop at their state line. This is a hugely important case in the post-Bruen legal landscape, and an excellent opportunity to undo some of the damage California has done to our fundamental civil liberties.