Guns in the OC – Will New Rules Turn the OC into the Wild West?

CCW briefcase-flexibilityBy now, you have probably heard that the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned the longstanding law in California concerning concealed weapons permits. A ruling of a 3 judge panel of the Court said California Counties are wrong to require concealed weapons applicants to show “good cause”. Instead, the judges agreed with the majority of states that “self defense” or “defense of the family” are good enough reasons to ask for a permit.

In the past, sheriffs and police have wielded a hug amount of power over who does and who does not get a CCW in their county. While Los Angeles has only issued a handful of permits in the past, usually to judges and celebrities, Orange County’s Sheriff Hutchens has been a bit more liberal with several hundred permits issued. Still, it was difficult for the average citizen to obtain a permit under the old rules and often required the applicant to show they have a substantial danger before a permit is issued.

The 9th Circuit Court has now changed all of that:

“The right to bear arms includes the right to carry an operable firearm outside the home for the lawful purpose of self-defense,” Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote for the majority.

Chuck Michel, an attorney who represented several San Diego County residents who were denied a permit and who filed a lawsuit in 2009, praised the 9th Circuit Court’s ruling.

“This decision is a very dramatic confirmation of the Supreme Court ruling,” Michel said.

O’Scannlain wrote that the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department’s requirement that applicants must provide documentation such as a restraining order to show a “special need” for a permit “impermissibly infringes on the Second Amendment right to bear arms in lawful self-defense.”

The ruling reversed a lower-court decision tossing out the lawsuit and ordered the judge to rule in favor of the applicants.

San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore has a limited amount of time to appeal the decision. He can either ask an 11 member panel of the 9th Circuit Court to re-hear the case or ask the case to be heard by the Supreme Court. It was the Supreme Court decision on the Second Amendment Heller Case that influenced the circuit court judges in their decision.

Of course, Gore can always choose to do nothing, let the ruling stand, and change his policy. That’s not likely considering there are mulitple and conflicting rulings from around the country.

Columnist Dan Walters recently chimed in on the gun control issue from Sacramento, wondering if California politicians zealous hatred of guns and the resulting spate of recent gun and ammunition legislation hasn’t gone too far.

Even Governor Brown pushed back on legislation to ban assault weapons. “I don’t believe that this bill’s blanket ban on semi-automatic rifles would reduce criminal activity or enhance public safety enough to warrant this infringement on gun owners’ rights,” Brown said in his veto message.

As Walters points out, however, Brown did sign other legislation ensuring California’s position as one of the most restrictive towards gun ownership.

Perhaps – as Brown implied in his veto message – it’s going too far, piling on gun restrictions zealously with little thought to their efficacy and even less to their constitutionality.

The era’s four most gut-wrenching political issues have been capital punishment, abortion, gay marriage and gun control, and all four involve either explicit or implicit constitutional rights.

California has been expansive of rights in the first three, and a federal appellate court seems to be telling California that it cannot continue to restrict gun ownership without violating the Bill of Rights’ guarantee of the right to bear arms.

Although Walters believes the Supreme Court will have the final say in how far states can go to restrict guns, it is more likely the issue will be sent back to the full 9th Circuit Court to be heard first. The only thing to push it directly to SCOTUS is the fact there are multiple and conflicting rulings from other courts and maybe it is time to make some hard decisions.

Here in Orange County, Sheriff Sandra Hutchens wasted no time in changing her policy to conform to the court ruling. Saying the Sheriff would abide by the law, sheriff spokeperson Jeff Hallock said:

“Bottom line is the sheriff is going to abide by the law,” said Lt. Jeff Hallock, a spokesman for O.C. Sheriff Sandra Hutchens.

“Before the court’s decision, good cause was something that was evaluated by the sheriff. What she considers good cause may not be same as Los Angeles, Riverside or San Diego as good cause. But in looking at the decision, some of the subjectiveness is taken out of it.”

Hutchens came under fire when she first took the helm of the OC Sheriffs department from disgraced sheriff, Mike Carona. Carona had issued hundreds of CCWs to residents of the county. And, even though many of those were deemed to be of political favor, it was clear that he had a liberal view of “good cause” when it came to applications.

When Hutchens took the reins, she immediately reviewed and revoked hundreds of CCW permits. Under the guise of cleaning up a political issue, it became clear that she was not going to be as loose as Carona had been with CCWs. When the Board of Supervisors called her on the carpet to see what would be done about the issue, Hutchens stood her ground, essentially saying she was not the lackey of the Board that hired her, rather she would run her office as she saw fit. That and a CCW for Supervisor Shawn Nelson pretty much put the issue to rest.

Hutchens claimed that she was approving ninety percent of applications for CCW. However, by her own numbers, her first year showed that she approved only eighty percent, or about 400, of the approximately 500 applications for a permit. And, in case you are wondering, over 3000 peace officers call Orange County home so you are more likely to meet an off duty peace officer who is carrying concealed than a private citizen.

Now, we see that Hutchens will follow the law. The Sheriff, who by consensus holds sole authority over CCWs issued in Orange County, has seen an increase in the number of inquiries into obtaining a CCW. Since the decision by the court, the sheriff’s office has received 500 applications. That is as many as the department received in all of the previous year. The rate of applications will probably drop as time goes on. However, the department is saying that, with the current number of applicants, those applying today will not likely see a permit for six months. OC Supervisors have suggested augmenting funds to allow for more interviews, the main issue with the applications at this time.  And, in the end, most people are not likely to want to bother with the cost, background check and 16 hours of training.

Will all of this turn The Real OC into the Real Wild West? We think there will be a significant increase in the number of permits issued, at least in the beginning. The ruling means California joins 38 other states that either have no restrictions or shall-issue permits. And California, with it’s previously restrictive CCW law, has the same or higher murder rates as Texas and other less restrictive states. That should be an indication that, although there may be more permits issued, they do not contribute significantly to the crime rate. And, states like Arizona with open carry allowed, are not more prone to violence. This lends creedence to the saying that criminals aren’t going to bother with a permit.

What lies in store for Californians who would like to obtain a permit is unclear. If the ruling stands, it is likely the ultra-liberals in Sacramento will go into overtime to craft restrictive laws that will keep guns out of the hands of law abiding citizens while doing little to stop criminal activity. You can bet that Darrel Steinberg, the author of the recent assault ban attempt, and Leland Yee, a rabid anti-gun Senator, are already working hard to find ways to eliminate guns in California. Their efforts, like those of past legilsators, have done little to protect the citizens of California.

Perhaps it is time to let citizens protect themselves.

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