Two out of three judges on a U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel think California’s law requiring state residents to have a reason for a concealed gun permit beyond “I want one” is too restrictive. They said that in February.
On Wednesday, the same judges told California Attorney General Kamala Harris, whose aim was to appeal the case to the full 11-member appellate court, she could not belatedly join the proceedings. They ruled (pdf) she was too late and the case lacked a constitutional issue involving a state statute.
Judge Sidney Thomas, the lone dissenter, said the ruling conflicts with the court’s precedents and “deprived one of the parties most affected by the panel’s decision the opportunity to even present an argument on an important constitutional question affecting millions of people.”
Peruta et al v. San Diego County (pdf) could be on its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. It is one of a host of appellate court decisions across the country that address what constitutes “good cause” by a person wishing to surreptitiously pack heat. States have different interpretations.
Peruta is the only appellate ruling which simply asserts that needing the permit for self defense was good enough. The Los Angeles Times said the two Ninth Circuit judges, Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain and Consuelo M. Callahan, were the most conservative on the court. The judges said the case was about whether the state should be messing around with San Diego County’s permit requirements, while Judge Thomas said it was obviously about state regulation of handguns.
Kamala Harris wasn’t the only party that thought the state attorney general’s office should be involved in the case. The original defendant, San Diego County Sheriff William Gore, wanted Harris to take his place when he stepped aside after losing the appeal. Peruta and the gun association, which was not averse to a U.S. Supreme Court appeal, also supported Harris’ inclusion.
In the meantime, counties have been under siege for nine months by applicants for concealed gun permits. While state law sets requirements for obtaining a permit—good moral character and proper training, for example—it leaves defining “good cause” to the counties. Most have decided to wait until the case is decided, but a few, like Orange County, have forged ahead using the relaxed standard, even hiring extra people to process requests.
California is one of only nine “may issue” states that have a set list of criteria for obtaining a permit, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Thirty-seven have varying stages of less exacting restrictions and four don’t require a permit at all.
The attorney general is said to be considering her options.