Gun Groups Fight California Over Schools

     LOS ANGELES (CN) — People with concealed carry permits sued California, claiming exempting retired peace officers from a law banning guns in schools discriminates against people who are not retired peace officers.
     Eleven people and four gun groups sued Attorney General Kamala Harris on April 14 in Federal Court.
     The Legislature last year recast the Gun-Free School Zone Act, which still exempts “individuals employed as ‘peace officers,’ members of the military, private security guards, and others actually employed to provide statutorily authorized security or law-enforcement services.”
     But the Legislature killed the exemption for private citizens who have a California license to carry a concealed weapon.
     Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill, SB 707, in October.
     Lead plaintiff Ulises Garcia is a doctor to who has a concealed weapon permit to protect himself and his family from “multiple threats of violence from a former patient.”
     He and the 10 other individuals say that to get their permits they had to pass “a rigorous background check, and only then on approval by the person’s county sheriff or the chief of their municipal police department.”
     Joining them as plaintiffs are the Firearms Policy Foundation, the Firearms Policy Coalition, the Madison Society Foundation and the Calguns Foundation.
     Mass shootings at school campuses, such as Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 and Virginia Tech in 2007, have heightened the debate over gun regulations. Gun rights advocates contend that firearms on campuses protect students and teachers. Gun control advocates doubt it.
     This is not strictly a Second Amendment case, however, but an equal protection case.
     During a brief phone interview, plaintiffs’ Bradley Benbrook said it is unfair to exempt one group from the law, while excluding others who hold valid concealed carry permits.
     “Our clients are anxious to hear the state’s explanation for why, for example, retired IRS agents – who no longer have authority to enforce the law anywhere in California and never had a law enforcement reason to carry a gun on school grounds even when they did work for the government – are entitled to more favorable treatment than Californians who have satisfied the rigorous requirements to get a carry license,” Benbrook wrote in an email.
     The plaintiffs seek declaratory judgment that the law violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection, and an injunction against its enforcement.
     They cite a precedent in which the Ninth Circuit struck down a similar provision that exempted peace officers from an assault weapons ban.
     “The purpose of this lawsuit is not to engineer a restoration of the exemption to the Act for ‘mere’ private citizens with a license to carry,” the new lawsuit states. “Rather, the purpose is to obtain a ruling that the preferential treatment given to retired peace officers over similarly situated private citizens violates the Equal Protection Clause.”
     It’s another round in legal challenges to California’s regulations on firearms and ammunition, which are among the toughest in the country.
     Unlike other states, California does not enshrine the right to bear arms in its constitution.
     In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court found in McDonald v. Chicago that the Second Amendment applies to all states. That has given gun rights advocates hope that they can weaken California’s laws.
     Gun buyers in the state must pass a written test before they can purchase a firearm. Gun dealers are allowed to sell only “California legal” weapons that are certified for sale in the state. A licensed gun dealer is required for private sales.
     The state also bans certain assault weapons, machine guns and high-capacity magazines, and restricts automatic firearms, short-barreled shotguns and some rifles.
     The attorney generals’ press secretary Rachele Huennekens said the Department of Justice could not comment on pending litigation.

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