Two groups defending the Second Amendment sent a legal warning to California Attorney General Rob Bonta Monday demanding that he “cease his blatant disregard for the recent Supreme Court decision which effectively overturned California’s ‘May Issue’ permitting scheme.”
The letter was sent by David Warrington, counsel for the National Association for Gun Rights and the National Foundation for Gun Rights, after Bonta issued a June 24 legal alert to local officials including recommendations to follow when determining if those seeking permits to purchase firearms were “responsible citizens.”
At issue is the recent landmark Supreme Court ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, in which the majority held that Americans have the constitutional right to carry firearms.
“Because the State of New York issues public-carry licenses only when an applicant demonstrates a special need for self-defense, we conclude that the State’s licensing regime violates the Constitution,” the court ruled.
The court struck down New York’s law requiring permit applicants to demonstrate “proper cause” in addition to their basic desire for self-defense.
It noted that California is one of six states with “‘may issue’ licensing laws, under which authorities have discretion to deny concealed-carry licenses even when the applicant satisfies the statutory criteria, usually because the applicant has not demonstrated cause or suitability for the relevant license,” Warrington said.
In Bonta’s memo, he cites a sentence from the ruling, claiming, “Bruen recognizes that States may ensure that those carrying firearms in their jurisdiction are ‘law-abiding, responsible citizens.’”
However, he did so out of context, the groups argue, in support of an arbitrary discretion scheme the court expressly prohibited.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh clarified that “Unlike New York’s may-issue regime, those shall-issue regimes do not grant open-ended discretion to licensing officials and do not require a showing of some special need apart from self-defense,” the groups point out.
“Attorney General Bonta lays out an entire laundry list of non-relevant characteristics such as ‘fiscal stability that he suggests local officials review before deciding whether an applicant is ‘moral’ enough to get a permit, including checking an applicant’s social media for ‘hatred and racism’ – whatever that means,” Dudley Brown, President of the National Association for Gun Rights, said. “This is a clear attack on the First Amendment in order to continue infringing on the Second. You can bet our legal foundation is looking at all options available to end California’s relentless attacks on the Second Amendment.”
Bonta also issued a statement after the Supreme Court ruling “remind[ing] Californians that general prohibitions on carrying loaded and concealed firearms in public without a permit remain in effect.”
“Carrying a loaded firearm (whether openly or concealed) in most public places is generally prohibited unless a person has been issued a license obtained by applying through local law enforcement,” he said.
He states that because California has a similar requirement to New York’s, requiring applicants to show proper cause in order to receive a license to carry, it’s “likely unconstitutional under Bruen.”
However, other requirements remain intact, he said, including requiring applicants to demonstrate “good moral character.”
“States still have the right to limit concealed carry permits to those who may safely possess firearms,” he said.
His office is also working with the governor and legislature “to advance legislation that is both constitutional and will maintain safety for Californians.”
He maintains that “more guns in more places make us less safe,” referring to licensed, law-abiding gun owners. “In California, we are committed to passing and defending commonsense, constitutional gun laws that save lives,” he added.
One key bill he’s been working on is SB 918 with state Sen. Anthony Portantino. The bill will “strengthen our existing concealed carry laws to ensure every Californian is safe from gun violence,” Portantino said.
Portantino maintains that the court’s ruling was “a setback for safety” and California “had a plan in place to protect our current and future legislative gun control efforts.”
It’s also urgent to address “the gun violence epidemic in our country and concealed carry laws are a key component of that effort,” he added, even though mass shootings haven’t been carried out by those who’ve received concealed carry permits.
Hannah Hill, Research and Policy Director for the NFGR, said the court’s decision applies to California, whose “citizens have been denied the right to carry a handgun under their unconstitutional ‘may issue’ permitting scheme.”
“Now Attorney General Bonta is defying the Supreme Court by turning the ‘good moral character requirement in California’s law into a woke litmus test in order to get a public-carry permit,” she added.
The groups argue Bonta’s approach “can only be described as instructions for a witch hunt against anyone who wishes to exercise their Second Amendment rights to carry in public.”