Gunning for change

Gunning for change

Chief sees rush on permits following appellate court’s ruling on concealed weapons 


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Interest in carrying guns in public mounted the day after the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that California’s concealed weapons laws violated the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms.  

“Several people have emailed me and told me they planned to submit an application,” said Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez. As he normally would, Sanchez said, “I told them we would look at them and consider them on a case-by-case basis.”

On Thursday, a three-judge appellate court panel ruled that California counties did not have the right to require applicants to show good cause beyond self-defense before they could receive a concealed-weapon permit. The ruling, which legal experts expect to be finally decided by the US Supreme Court, stopped short of saying police agencies actually should issue such permits to qualified applicants.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed in 2011 by several gun owners in San Diego County who were denied permits. They claimed their constitutional rights were denied because they had been adequately trained in weapons use and had passed all background checks.

“Given this requirement [to acquire a permit], the ‘typical’ responsible, law-abiding citizen in San Diego County cannot bear arms in public for self-defense,” wrote Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986.

“We are not holding that the Second Amendment requires the states to permit concealed carry,” O’Scannlain, wrote in the opinion. “But the Second Amendment does require that the states permit some form of carry for self-defense outside the home.”

Law enforcement agencies around the state have made such permits difficult to obtain. Sanchez said he has received only one or two such permit applications each year since taking over as chief more than three years ago. Even so, the Pasadena Police Department has not approved a permit for a concealed weapon in more than 20 years, Sanchez said. Most other law enforcement agencies in California are also hesitant to approve concealed weapons permits. 

“Gun ownership, whether concealed or otherwise, does not necessarily equate to increased safety or a reduction in vulnerability,” Sanchez said. “The Pasadena Police Department will continue to assess requests on a case-by-case basis for concealed carry.”

According to FOX News, only a few hundred people in Los Angeles County have permits to carry concealed guns. There are about 700 in San Diego County and none in San Francisco County. 

Unlike most other states, California has no provisions in its state Constitution guaranteeing residents the right to keep and bear arms. Because the state Constitution does not hold that provision, the state Supreme Court has maintained that the state’s restrictive gun laws, which force residents to pass a written test certified by the state before purchasing a handgun, are constitutional.

Amanda Wilcox of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, an organization named after former White House Press Secretary James Brady who was shot in the head during an assassination attempt on Reagan in March 1981, told the Weekly that the US Supreme Court has already ruled that the right to carry a hidden loaded weapon is limited.

“We feel that this is a decision contrary to decisions in every other court of appeal,” Wilcox said. “We hope it is reviewed and the decision is reversed. The [US] Supreme Court has already ruled that the right of a law-abiding citizen to have an operating handgun in the home is very different than having a hidden loaded gun in public. Certainly that decision allows for regulation of concealed weapons permits, as California does.” 

California is one of 11 “may issue” states when it comes to concealed weapons permits, meaning law enforcement officials can issue such permits at their discretion. The other 39 states are considered “shall issue” states and have no restrictive clauses prohibiting concealed weapons permits. 

Chris W. Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, said the Ninth Circuit’s decision was a victory for the right to defend oneself.

“No one should have to wait until they are assaulted before they are allowed to exercise their fundamental right of self-defense,” Cox said in a prepared statement. “The US Supreme Court has already affirmed our Constitutional right to Keep Arms, and today, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the right to Bear Arms. Our fundamental, individual Right to Keep and Bear Arms is not limited to the home.”

The ruling could also strike down Assembly Bill 144, authored in 2011 by Democratic former state Assemblyman Anthony Portantino of La Cañada Flintridge. AB144 made it illegal to carry an unloaded firearm in public. 

The legislation, which went into effect on New Year’s Day 2012, resulted in protests throughout California, where people showed up at events and in public with unloaded firearms strapped to their hips. Much was the scene in Old Pasadena at the time the bill was being considered, with gun advocates strolling around the trendy shopping district with pickets and unloaded handguns openly displayed. 

“I think it is a stretch to try and connect them,” Portantino said of the ruling and his legislation. “I think the reality is you don’t want unlicensed proliferation in mainstream California,” he said. “During open carry, law enforcement could not even ask to see a permit. They could only ask if the gun was loaded or unloaded. That was a serious problem that needed to be fixed. What we did was the right thing.”

But just as Portantino was authoring AB144, lawsuits were in the works in San Diego, ultimately leading to Thursday’s ruling.

Prior to AB144, California was an “open carry” state that allowed gun owners the right to carry unloaded weapons as long as they were in full view. But AB144 may have inadvertently been the final straw that violated the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms.

The 1967 Mulford Act outlawed the open carrying of loaded weapons in California. The bill — also known as the Panther Bill — was introduced by Republican legislator Don Mulford to eliminate patrols by the Black Panthers, a militant African-American group that conducted armed patrols in Oakland in the 1960s.
On May 2, 1967, several Black Panther members entered the state Capitol building in Sacramento carrying loaded rifles and shotguns to voice their opposition to Mulford’s legislation. The incident captured national attention.

The Mulford Act, coupled with AB144, and including the policies of many law enforcement agencies prohibiting conceal weapons permits left Californians unable to carry weapon outside of their homes.

Despite all that, Portantino said he expects the decision to be reversed. 
“A broader pool of judges will look at it,” Portantino said. “I think that as the conversation gets broader the decision will change.” 


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The ability to openly carry a loaded firearm in public is likely to be restored long before an en banc rehearing of the Peruta decision.

My lawsuit seeks to overturn both the 1967 Black Panther Loaded Open Carry ban as well as the two recently enacted bans on openly carrying unloaded firearms (AB 144 & AB 1527).

As you correctly noted in the article, O’Scannlain, wrote in the opinion “We are not holding that the Second Amendment requires the states to permit concealed carry...”

When I filed my lawsuit back on November 30, 2011 I did not limit my challenge to the Second Amendment. I knew there was a possibility that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals could limit the scope of the Second Amendment to one's home (which is why I also included an in-home nexus).

And so I raised a number of challenges to the laws under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments as well as under the Second Amendment.

At the top of my 14th Amendment challenges is an equal protection challenge based on race. It was clear from the legislative record and the state archives that the sole reason for enacting the 1967 Loaded Open Carry ban was to disarm racial minorities, particularly Blacks.

I was so successful in making that argument that Attorney General Kamala Harris, in her final brief in opposition to my lawsuit argued that the Founding Father's intent in enacting the Second Amendment was to curry favor with the Southern States and slave patrols. Therefore, overturning the Black Panther Open Carry ban would be overturning the Second Amendment.

I don't need to win every legal argument to prevail in my lawsuit, I only need to win one point and, as you can see by the AG's response, I've won my 14th Amendment challenge.

When that happens, all of the concealed carry cases in California will be dismissed as being moot.

A decision in my case, Nichols v. Brown, is due by April 8th.

posted by Charles Nichols on 2/20/14 @ 08:28 p.m.

Well if guns don't necessarily make one safer, as Chief Sanchez claims, then there is NO NEED FOR HE OR HIS OFFICERS to have them. Rank and rancid baloney.

In LA County no one has gotten a permit to carry concealed either UNLESS they donated $5000 or more to Leroy Baca.....This is abuse. Many people have need to carry and do so illegally because the police refuse to allow them to take needed safety precautions, say if they normally carry large amounts of cash in business or have had their lives threatened by gangs and so on.

Its time these public servants SERVE the public rather than act as nannies.

posted by Steve Lamb on 2/20/14 @ 10:47 p.m.

Say WHAT? Kamala Harris claims discrimination racially is the essence of the Constitutional Bill of Rights? She has, PERHAPS heard of the 14th Amendment? Could she have passed her Constitutional law class? How could someone making that offensive argument ever hope to be re elected as Attorney General? I voted for her last time, but will NOT next time. OBSCENE

posted by Steve Lamb on 2/20/14 @ 10:52 p.m.

I see the ruling as a good thing. But maybe that's because i don't trust other people with my safety. No officer is going to take a bullet for me these days, they're more likely to be the ones to put the bullet in me.

posted by ScarySpice on 2/20/14 @ 10:54 p.m.

One consequence of this ruling, in that many more (responsible) people will legally be (more anonymously) armed, the Golden State's LE gangbangers will most likely become a bit more careful, if not polite, about how they command even us low-renter types how to immediately obey their summary commands ... .


posted by DanD on 2/21/14 @ 09:52 a.m.

“Gun ownership, whether concealed or otherwise, does not necessarily equate to increased safety or a reduction in vulnerability,”

And yet I'll bet every one of his officers carries a gun because it makes them safer and less vulnerable.

posted by NWGunSlinger on 2/21/14 @ 09:54 a.m.

I want one. Steve Lamb for Mayor!

posted by Paul G on 2/21/14 @ 09:56 a.m.

“Gun ownership, whether concealed or otherwise, does not necessarily equate to increased safety or a reduction in vulnerability,” is a simplistically expressed, brain-fart untruth.


posted by DanD on 2/21/14 @ 10:16 a.m.

Thank you Mr. Nichols for doing your part and fighting for our rights. I have been waiting for a ruling on your case and hope the courts wake up and correct the path the state legislators have put us on. The right to defend oneself, loved ones and property is an essential human right and clearly should extend beyond the home.

posted by JoeC on 2/21/14 @ 03:20 p.m.

"Amanda Wilcox of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, an organization named after former White House Press Secretary James Brady who was shot in the head during an assassination attempt on Reagan in March 1981, told the Weekly that the US Supreme Court has already ruled that the right to carry a hidden loaded weapon is limited."

Meanwhile, firearm access for that particular sacrificial perp during that Neo-Con coup attempt was never an issue ...


posted by DanD on 2/23/14 @ 09:39 a.m.
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