Judges con­sider San Diego gun rule

2nd Amend­ment ad­vo­cates want sher­iff to re­vise con­cealed weapon per­mit pol­icy.

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Tony Perry tony.perry@latimes.com Twit­ter: @LATsandiego

SAN DIEGO — Fed­eral ap­peals judges on Tues­day pep­pered at­tor­neys for 2nd Amend­ment ad­vo­cates about why the long­time rule of the San Diego County Sher­iff ’s Depart­ment to de- termine who re­ceives con­cealed weapon per­mits should be struck down.

Paul Cle­ment, for­mer U.S. so­lic­i­tor gen­eral who is rep­re­sent­ing a jour­nal­ist who was de­nied a per­mit, said that although it is not im­proper for a county sher­iff to set rules in such cases, the San Diego rule re­quir­ing an ap­pli­cant to show “good cause” why they need a per­mit is too strict.

Among other things, Cle­ment ar­gued, Sher­iff Bill Gore has no ev­i­dence that is­su­ing more con­cealed weapon per­mits will lead to an in­crease in vi­o­lence. Other coun­ties have more rea­son­able rules, he ar­gued.

“If my client was so for­tu­nate to live in Sacra­mento County,” he would al­ready have a con­cealed weapon per­mit, said Cle­ment, who has rep­re­sented the Na­tional Rif le Assn. in other gun cases.

The judges, although ap­pear­ing skep­ti­cal, did not in­di­cate whether they would over­turn a 2-1 de­ci­sion by a panel of the 9th Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals that found the San Diego County rule too re­stric­tive. A rul­ing is ex­pected within a few months.

The 11-mem­ber panel now hear­ing the case is com­posed of eight judges nomi- nated by Demo­cratic pres­i­dents, three by Repub­li­cans.

But Chuck Michel, at­tor­ney for the Cal­i­for­nia Rif le and Pis­tol Assn., said af­ter the 75-minute ses­sion, held in San Fran­cisco, that it is “too sim­ple” to say that the case will be de­cided on party lines. “We re­main very hope­ful,” he said.

Cle­ment ar­gued that there is noth­ing wrong with the sher­iff re­quir­ing an ap­pli­cant to take a gun-safety course and not have a crim­i­nal history. But re­quir­ing an ap­pli­cant to ex­plain why he or she needs a gun for their safety vi­o­lates the 2nd Amend­ment, he said.

The two sides in the dis­pute agree that the is­sue may ul­ti­mately be de­cided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case be­gan when jour­nal­ist and for­mer po­lice of­fi­cer Ed­ward Peruta felt his 2nd Amend­ment right to bear arms had been vi­o­lated when he was turned down for a con­cealed weapons per­mit. He felt that the county’s “good cause” stan­dard was both un­fair and illegal.

Other peo­ple who had also been re­jected for a per­mit agreed and joined the lit­i­ga­tion, cham­pi­oned by the NRA and other groups. A trial court in San Diego re­jected Peruta’s as­ser­tion and up­held the Sher­iff ’s Depart­ment rule.

But on ap­peal, a panel of the 9th Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals ruled 2 to 1 in Peruta’s fa­vor in 2014, es­sen­tially strik­ing down the Sher­iff ’s Depart­ment pol­icy.

The panel struck down the way that the San Diego County depart­ment in­ter­prets the state law but left in­tact the law it­self, which gives in­di­vid­ual sher­iff ’s de­part­ments the au­thor­ity to is­sue con­cealed weapons per­mits.

While the panel’s de­ci­sion only di­rectly in­volved the San Diego County depart­ment, other sher­iff ’s de­part­ments moved to change their poli­cies to con­form with the rul­ing.

The San Diego depart­ment, how­ever, did not, opt­ing in­stead to hold per­mit ap­pli­ca­tions in abeyance un­til the is­sue has com­pleted its jour­ney through the courts. As of this week, the depart­ment has 2,147 ap­pli­ca­tions in abeyance.

Gore, who had in­her­ited the pol­icy from his pre­de­ces­sor, de­cided not to file an ap­peal. But in March, state Atty. Gen. Ka­mala Harris, call­ing the case “one of ex­cep­tional im­por­tance,” asked that it be heard by all 11 judges, set­ting the stage for Tues­day’s hear­ing.

Among other is­sues, the judges asked a lawyer from the state at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice why the at­tor­ney gen­eral waited so long to ap­peal.

If the 9th Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals up­holds the panel’s de­ci­sion, it could mark a prece­dent that would in­crease the rights of gun own­ers through­out the state. Tues­day’s hear­ing also in­volved a sim­i­lar rule in Yolo County.

Rich Pe­dron­celli AP

AD­VO­CATES say Sher­iff Bill Gore has no ev­i­dence that more per­mits lead to more vi­o­lence.

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