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Orange County’s Gun Limits Dissected in 9th

(CN) - Concerns that a limitation on concealed-carry permits in Orange County, Calif., amounts to an all-out ban did not seem to resonate with the 9th Circuit.

A three-judge panel with the federal appeals court met this week to consider a 2012 lawsuit challenging Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchen's policy of "denying law-abiding, competent adults ... state-required licenses to carry handguns in public for the purpose of self-defense." The policy requires gun owners to prove to the sheriff that they have a valid reason to carry their gun for self defense.

U.S. District Judge James Selna of Santa Ana had refused to issue an injunction in November after finding the claims unlikely to succeed because "California provides several exceptions to the restriction of concealed and open carry, including for self-defense and defense of the home."

Sean Brady, an attorney for the plaintiffs with Michel & Associates, told the appellate panel that the sheriff's policy is a complete ban.

Judge Kim McClane Wardlaw disagreed, claiming California's regulatory system has many exceptions to carry guns in public.

"If you look at them in aggregate, they provide little if any availability to have a firearm available in public," Brady countered. "Unless you are a veteran going to a march, or a person involved in the sale of firearms transporting to and from your store locations, there is nothing that allows anybody to have a firearm available."

Judge Harry Pregerson noted that people can still buy firearms.

"You can take it home, and you can use it there if you need it to defend yourself," Pregerson said.

Brady replied that his clients know that the law protects their use of a gun for self-defense inside the home, but want the right to a license to carry elsewhere.

Pregerson asked if "every person who has a concern about his or her safety ought to be able to carry a weapon on his or her person that's concealed?"

Affirming, Brady said that should be fine as long as the gun owner meets the other regulations in California.

"It's not my client's burden to prove that they are not able to exercise this right, it's the government's burden to prove a reason why they shouldn't be able to," Brady said.

Wardlaw compared the restrictions put in place by Hutchens to the restrictions on free speech.

"Nobody has ever said that those restrictions eliminate your fundamental right to speak, and all those restrictions are allowed on speech, which I would submit is a far less dangerous action then carrying a concealed weapon," Wardlaw said.

Marianne Van Riper, an attorney representing Hutchens and the Orange County Sheriff's Office, claimed that the class was trying to turn the case into a discussion of the state's gun affairs, when "all the sheriff is doing is administering her policy under the California penal code."

Judge Richard Tallman disagreed with Van Riper's assessment.

"Suppose that we conclude that the District Court was wrong, that there is in fact a constitutional right of self defense?" Tallman asked. "It reaches its zenith in the home, but it extends outside the home. Wouldn't that undermine the District Court's legal analysis, and therefore as a matter of law constitute an abuse of discretion?"

Van Riper replied that there is no right to a concealed weapon outside the home.

"If California law is such that either you have a permit to carry a concealed weapon or you can't carry openly, then I'm having a hard time seeing where the constitution is being respected by a policy that basically does not recognize self defense as a reason for allowing a weapon to be carried outside the home," Tallman responded.

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