WASHINGTON (CN) – Saying high court intervention is needed again on gun rights, the attorneys general of 26 states signed an amicus brief Thursday that calls on the justices to put California's tough restrictions on concealed-carry permits in their crosshairs.
The case Peruta v. San Diego challenges an interpretation of a California law that requires people to, among other things, show "good cause" before being allowed to carry a concealed gun in public. In San Diego County, the sheriff took that statute to mean a person applying for a concealed-carry permit had to show they had a specific reason they needed a gun for self-defense. Applicants who simply say they have a generalized fear for their safety are deemed to fall short of this threshold.
The Ninth Circuit upheld that scheme last year, but advocates of gun rights have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in. Alabama and 25 other states joined that call Thursday, saying the law has the effect of restricting most people from carrying a gun in public.
Calling this unconstitutional, the brief notes that "the text and history of the Second Amendment demonstrate that the right to keep and bear arms does not stop at the front door of the home."
Because the law "almost entirely prohibits open carry” in California, get a concealed-carry permit was the only option San Diego challenger Edward Peruta had to carry a gun outside his home, according to the amicus brief.
Relying heavily on Justice Antonin Scalia's famous opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller –which struck down Washington, D.C.'s ban on handguns – the states say the Second Amendment winds up hamstrung when governments couple a near-prohibition on open-carry with strict requirements for concealed-carry permits.
"Because the regulation at issue here leaves no legal means for most individuals to exercise their right to bear arms for self-defense outside of the home, it is per se unconstitutional," the 29-page brief states (emphasis in original).
State attorneys general Tim Fox of Montana, Marty Jackley of North Dakota, Adam Paul Laxalt of Nevada, Lawrence Wasden of Idaho and Jahna Lindemuth of Alaska joined Alabama in the brief. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, whom the Senate approved as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday, joined the brief as well.
"The Second Amendment gives law-abiding citizens the fundamental right to bear arms for the defense of themselves, their families and their homes," North Dakota’s Jackley said in a statement. "As attorney general, I have a strong interest in protecting and defending our law-abiding citizen's right to keep and bear arms."
Peruta’s challenge of San Diego scheme has navigated the courts in tandem with a challenge by Adam Richads to similar restrictions in California’s Yolo County.
Federal judges upheld both counties’ systems at summary judgment, and both rulings were initially overturned at the Ninth Circuit. The federal appeals court set those decisions aside pending an en banc review, which ended in the counties’ favor, 7-4, this past June.
The Supreme Court has not yet agreed to hear the case.