Judge slaps injunction on state’s new CCW law

Judge Cormac Carney says SB 2 is too restrictive, infringes on the Second Amendment; Attorney General Bonta seeks to appeal the ruling

(gsps on AdobeStock)
(gsps on AdobeStock)
Darren Fraser
Published December 28, 2023  • 
10:00 am

FRESNO – A federal judge has blocked a new state law aimed at limiting concealed weapon carry in most public spaces, igniting a conversation on the ways the law violates Second Amendment rights and infringes on a person’s ability to defend themselves.

On Dec. 20, a U.S. district court Judge Cormac J. Carney of the Central District of Southern California granted a motion for a preliminary injunction against a new California law, which further limited the places where individuals could legally carry concealed weapons. In his decision, he wrote, “SB 2’s coverage is sweeping, repugnant to the Second Amendment, and openly defiant of the Supreme Court.”

“We live in dangerous times,” Carney wrote at the start of his opinion. “Nearly every day we are barraged with stories about school shootings, attacks on places of worship, and other unthinkable acts of violence and cruelty.”

Carney said the only remedy for these problems is democracy; that democracy will, like it always has, prevail and “somehow solve the challenges we face.” But that is of little comfort to individuals “who, through no fault of their own, find themselves beset by an attacker and facing their death or that of their loved ones.”

He went on to emphasize the importance of the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right of law-abiding citizens to bear arms for self-defense. According to Carney, SB 2 would turn all public places in California into “sensitive places” – that is, places where it is prohibited to carry a concealed weapon – which infringes upon the rights of responsible citizens to protect themselves in public.

As reported on by the Times in a previous article, SB 2, signed by Governor Newsom in September 2023, introduced significant changes to concealed carry weapon (CCW) laws, including increased training requirements, mandatory mental health training and expanding the number of locations where a person cannot carry a CCW. 

In his decision, Carney identified 26 categories of sensitive places where concealed carry was prohibited, including hospitals, parks, libraries and places of worship. His injunction did not do away with the ban on CCWs in all 26 locations, however; just some of them.

BONTA PROMISES TO APPEAL

On the same day Carney rendered his decision, Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office issued a press release in which Bonta promised to appeal Carney’s ruling.

“If allowed to stand, this decision would endanger communities by allowing guns in places where families and children gather,” said Bonta. “Guns in sensitive public places do not make our communities safe, but rather the opposite. I have directed my team to file an appeal to overturn this decision. We believe the court got this wrong.”

In a possible preview of his appeal, Bonta acknowledged that the Second Amendment does limit a state’s ability to regulate firearms. But he also noted that the Constitution has recognized that the Second Amendment has given states the power to adopt local gun regulations. These include the power to deny an individual who has demonstrated they are not law-abiding from carrying guns in public.

SENSITIVE PLACES AND DISQUALIFIED PERSONS

The press release noted that, while the preliminary injunction did stop SB 2 from enforcing the carry ban in certain locations, Carney’s ruling did not impact the law’s enforcement against CCWs in school zones, preschools, state or local public buildings, airports and legislative offices.

Bonta also noted that Carney’s decision did not change SB 2’s restrictions against disqualified persons from obtaining a CCW permit. These restrictions include:

  • A person convicted of contempt of court;
  • A person currently under a restraining order;
  • A person who engaged in the reckless use of a firearm or who recklessly brandished a firearm;
  • A person who was in jail in during the last five years because of drugs or alcohol;
  • A person who was convicted in the past 10 years of any of a myriad of offenses listed in Penal Code Sections 422.6, 422.7, 422.75, and 29805;
  • A person who is currently abusing drugs or alcohol, or;
  • A person who, in the last 10 years, has displayed a proclivity for losing firearms or for being a victim of firearm theft.

Bonta pledged to take the fight to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

STATE OVERREACH, SACROSANCT RIGHTS

Opponents of SB 2, including Fresno County Sheriff John Zanoni and Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, argued that the bill constituted legal overreach by the state. 

Speaking to the Times, the owner of Gracie’s Firearms in Reedley said SB 2 was another attempt by Sacramento politicians to take away the rights of law-abiding citizens.

“Because of this law, my wife, who has her own CCW permit, cannot carry my handgun,” he said. He referred to the provision in the law that states each owner must be the registered owner of the weapon.

In his opinion, Carney appeared not to afford much latitude to those who are hoping that SB 2 may usher in a new era of handgun regulations.

“Some disagree with the Founders and the Supreme Court that individual citizens have a right to protect themselves and believe that the best solution to the many dangers of the modern day is to prevent law-abiding citizens from carrying handguns,” he wrote.

He added, “But the Constitution, by design, recognizes that some rights are so important and sacrosanct that nothing short of a constitutional amendment may take them away.”

Darren Fraser
Reporter