Californians Petition Supreme Court to Hear Second Amendment Case

Edward Peruta

Nearly everybody is aware of the strict laws regulating the possession of firearms in California, and a group of gun-owners seeks to correct what they consider a violation of their Second Amendment rights by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

In California, applications to carry a concealed firearm are submitted to the county sheriff for review and background check. In San Diego County, the Sheriff has a policy requiring “good cause” be shown to obtain a permit. Applicants must state a specific reason they want to carry a concealed firearm, such as having a job involving transporting large sums of cash or needing protection from a stalker.  Self-defense is not considered enough of a “good cause.” This guideline is followed in other major metropolitan areas as well, like Los Angeles, Orange County, and the Bay Area.

As a result of this subjective process, only 224 new permits were issued in 2016, according to county officials. There are only 1,278 total active permits in San Diego County, a county with a population of over 3.2 million. That’s less than .04% of the population. As a comparison, Harris County, Texas (which includes Houston), has 139,563 license holders out of a population of 4.5 million, or 3.1%, nearly eight times the rate of San Diego County.

Information from the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Firearms, indicate that as of 2015, there were 70,593 active permits statewide, about 0.2% of the population. That is by far one of the lowest rates in the country. In Texas, the rate is 5.7%, Florida is 11.9%, Tennessee is 11.8%, and Washington State, the rate is 10.6%. The national average is about 5%.

Back in 2009, a group of individual applicants, led by Edward Peruta, filed suit against the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department contending their Second Amendment rights were being violated as other, more rural counties in the state, were more lenient in what they considered to be “good cause.”

A federal judge ruled against Peruta’s group in 2010 and they appealed. A 3-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and found for Peruta in 2014. However, the California Attorney General’s Office intervened and sought a rehearing by the full bench. In July 2015, a split court ruled 7-4 against Perulta, reversing the 3-judge panel, stating that “[T]he right of a member of the general public to carry a concealed firearm in public is not, and never has been, protected by the Second Amendment.”

After Peruta’s request for a rehearing was denied, he filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes that it might take up the case, arguing that self-defense is a good enough reason to want to carry a gun in public, and that “the constitutional right to self-defense does not eat at one’s doorstep.”

Peruta is optimistic that the Supreme Court may hear his case, especially if a pro-Second Amendment justice is appointed to fill the current vacancy on the bench. –by Michael Wisdom, Senior Contributing Editor, Texas & U.S. Law Shield Blog