If you like guns, and you like carrying them around without the world knowing, the otherwise liberal United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth District just gave you a gift. Legal experts are using "huge" to describe this 2-1 decision.
The court today ruled that the concealed-weapon permit process of San Diego County and its Sheriff's Department is unconstitutional. Essentially, a three-judge panel said, you have to jump through too many hoops to get your hidden gun on. The county of Los Angeles, the LAPD and San Francisco have similar permitting standards.
See also: Who's Packing Heat in L.A. County?
Getting a permit to carry a concealed weapon in greater L.A. ...
... is a very long shot. Seriously.
The L.A. County Sheriff's Department and the LAPD require you to prove imminent danger - that someone's actually after you. Same for the San Diego authorities who were at the center of this case, Edward Peruta v. County of San Diego.
While getting a permit from the sheriff is rare (judges, prosecutors, security guards for celebrities have received them), getting one from the LAPD is nearly impossible.
The California-based federal court ruled that this is not what the Constitution and its Second Amendment had in mind. The majority wrote, "Carrying weapons in public for the lawful purpose of self defense is a central component of the right to bear arms ... "
David Kopel, a Colorado law professor whose work on the Second Amendment's 19th century history was cited by the panel, explained his take on the ruling for us:
The state law says that to get a 'carry' permit the applicant has to have good cause. Some counties say good cause means you're a good guy and you can protect yourself, but in some jurisdictions like San Diego County good cause means imminent specific threats from an identified person.
The court says no, you can't do that - when you define it so narrowly you make it impossible for a typical citizen to carry arms. Counties will have to change their policies.
Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the School of Law at UC Irvine, however, says not so fast. He said the panel's vote today came down to two conservatives in favor versus one liberal judge opposed.
He told us that a full-panel en banc review of the ruling, where the case would be exposed to more of the court's majority of liberals, might turn out differently.
And if San Diego County doesn't win there (if it goes there), he said he wouldn't be surprised to see an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court:
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So far the Supreme Court has only found a right of people to have guns in their homes for the sake of security. This ruling goes far beyond what the Supreme Court has done. It's a long way before we know this is going to stand or not. This is much farther than any other court has gone in protecting gun owners' rights.
We called the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the LAPD and the L.A. City Attorney's office for their responses but had yet to hear back.
The ruling applies to all the Western states under the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit. Kopel argues that San Diego County, L.A. County, and the LAPD "need to move fairly quickly because they have a policy that has been held to be fragrantly in violation of the U.S. Constitution."