Judge Declares Most of California’s New ‘Gun-Free Zones’ Can’t Be Enforced

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AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez isn’t the only Second Amendment “saint” in California who miraculously adheres to the text, tradition, and history of the right to keep and bear arms. Judge Cormac Carney has delivered a stern rebuke of his own to state lawmakers who imposed a host of new “sensitive places” where lawful concealed carry is forbidden, granting an injunction against their enforcement just a little more than a week before the state’s carry-killer legislation known as SB 2 is set to take effect.

In a 43-page opinion handed down late Wednesday, Carney described SB 2 as “repugnant to the Second Amendment, and openly defiant of the Supreme Court.” The law “turns nearly every public place in California into a ‘sensitive place,’” according to Carney, “effectively abolishing the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding and exceptionally qualified citizens to be armed and to defend themselves in public.”

Carney ruled in favor of the gun owners and Second Amendment organizations who brought the May v. Bonta and Carralerro v. Bonta litigation on every one of their challenges; granting an injunction against the following “gun-free zones” established under SB 2:

  • Hospitals, mental health facilities, nursing homes, medical offices, urgent care facilities, and other places where medical services are customarily provided,
  • Public transportation
  • Establishments where “intoxicating liquor” is sold for consumption on the premises
  • Public gatherings and special events
  • Playgrounds and private youth centers
  • Parks and athletic facilities
  • Department of Parks and Recreation and Department of Fish and Wildlife property, except hunting areas,
  • Casinos and gambling establishments
  • Public libraries, zoos, and museums
  • Places of worship
  • Financial institutions
  • Privately-owned businesses open to the public
  • Parking areas (including those adjacent to “sensitive places” not challenged by the plaintiffs)

This is the post-Bruen carry decision that gun owners have been waiting for. Carney didn’t try to play philosophical games or stretch historical analogues to the point of silliness in order to uphold these “gun-free zones.” Instead, he did exactly what the Supreme Court has instructed judges to do: look at the text of the Second Amendment, as well as the history and tradition of the right to keep and bear arms when determining whether a modern gun control restriction fits within that national tradition.

Take the issue of bans in parks and playgrounds, for example. U.S. District Judge Kea W. Riggs has enjoined New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s ban on concealed carry in parks from being enforced but denied a request for a similar injunction against her carry ban in playgrounds under the dubious theory that playgrounds are analogous to schools, and are therefore “sensitive places” where lawful carry can be prohibited. When Judge Carney took a look at California’s ban, he reached a very different conclusion:

Contrary to the government’s contention and other courts’ conclusions, this regulation is not supported by analogy to the “settled” notion that states may ban firearms in schools. Constitutionally permissible “new and analogous sensitive places” must be similar to existing sensitive places in both how and why the government burdens the right to carry firearms for self-defense. Bruen, 597 U.S. at 29–30. Regulating firearms at schools is different than playgrounds and youth centers in key ways. Rather than delivering children to the state (sometimes with armed officers) for protection, at playgrounds parents and caregivers remain responsible for their children’s safety without any immediate support.  And in contrast to the restricted grounds of a school where unauthorized persons generally may not enter, playgrounds and youth centers are public, unrestricted spaces. Because SB2’s prohibition on CCW permitholders carrying firearms at playgrounds and youth centers eviscerates their ability to defend themselves and their children against attack, the burden it creates on the core Second Amendment right is far greater than the burden created by making schools a sensitive place

That’s a more thoughtful and substantive look at the analogy than what we’ve seen from other judges, including Riggs, and it’s indicative of the approach Carney takes when looking at every one of the “gun-free zones” established by SB 2.

The big question at the moment is whether the Ninth Circuit will let Carney’s injunction stand, or if anti-2A judges on the appellate court will play their usual games and stay his decision and allow California to begin enforcing these “sensitive places” on January 1. We’ll be talking about Carney’s decision in-depth on today’s Bearing Arms Cam & Co with Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation, as well as the other legal challenges to SB 2’s new licensing restrictions and outrageous costs and fees.

No matter what the Ninth Circuit decides, the Supreme Court will have the final say, and the California Rifle & Pistol Association, Gun Owners of America, Gun Owners of California, Liberal Gun Owners Association, Firearms Policy Coalition, Orange County Gun Owners PAC, San Diego County Gun Owners PAC, California Gun Rights Foundation, Reno May, Marco Antonio Carralero, and the other named plaintiffs who challenged these provisions deserve congratulations for their fight, and for a decision that can and will be cited going forward… including at the highest court in the land.

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