REGION — A U.S. Supreme Court ruling on June 23 that struck down a New York state gun law requiring a resident to cite a “special need for self-protection” to carry a concealed firearm in public has left many Californians in shock and state lawmakers scrambling to draft new legislation.
The Golden State, regarded as one of the strictest states in the country to purchase and carry firearms, has a similar requirement, known as a “good cause” clause, for gun owners seeking to carry a concealed weapon.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department sent an email saying the court’s ruling does not prohibit states from requiring a license to carry a firearm.
Additionally, the Sheriff’s Department said state laws still forbid carrying firearms in “sensitive” areas such as schools and government buildings. Private businesses and property owners can still regulate whether individuals may have a gun on their premises.
“As we continue to evaluate this decision and what it means for San Diego County, we anticipate an increase in applications for concealed carry permits,” the department said a release. “Any changes to our policies or procedures will be posted on our public webpage. Our highest priority is public safety and protecting individual rights.”
Michael Schwartz, executive director of the San Diego County Gun Owners Association, said his organization is happy with the ruling. Representatives for the regional guns’ rights organization have said for years the “good cause” regulations in New York, California and Maryland was unconstitutional.
Schwartz said a law enforcement agency, or the state, cannot deny a permit based on subjective reasoning. Before a permit is issues, residents must submit an application to the Sheriff’s Department, undergo a background check and take a class.
Schwartz said 25 states have constitutional carry gun laws, which means legally owned firearms may be concealed. In California, gun owners are still required to have a Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) permit.
Also, Schwartz said the ruling would benefit gun owners and citizens who need firearms for self-defense, citing up to 2.5 million instances per year where someone uses a gun to prevent a violent crime.
In response to the court’s ruling, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Twitter the state has been anticipating this “moment” and is ready with a bill to be heard next week to “update and strengthen” the state’s public carry law.
“A dark day in America,” Newsom wrote on Twitter in response to the ruling. “This is a dangerous decision from a court hell bent on pushing a radical ideological agenda and infringing on the rights of states to protect our citizens from being gunned down in our streets, schools, and churches. Shameful.”
In addition, the State Legislature passed a bill on June 27 allowing private Californians to sue manufacturers, sellers and distributors of illegal firearms and collect at least $10,000 in damages per weapon, which was reportedly inspired by Texas’ six-week abortion ban, according to Cal Matters.
Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote for the conservative majority, said New York’s regulations “prevent law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms.” The court listed five other states — California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey — where authorities have the discretion to deny Concealed Carry Weapons permits even if the applicant meets the criteria.
UCLA law professor Adam Winkler told SFGate the ruling would have “significant impacts” in California.
“This is the beginning of a period where we’ll see a wide variety of California gun laws called into question, if not struck down entirely,” Winkler told the newspaper.
Stephanie Wells, a gun safety advocate in Carlsbad, said her experience with gun violence has led to her activism and advocacy for safer practices. At age 1, Wells’ mother was shot by her father with a shotgun and survived, forever changing the dynamic with her mother.
Wells said the interpretation of the Constitution is based on more than 200 years ago, and “we need to reimagine” what everything means for the “proper times.”
“I worry about law enforcement,” Wells said, noting California has one of the lowest gun violence rates in the country. “How do they know it’s a good guy with a gun and not a bad guy with a gun? What kind of risk does that put officers in?”
Wells cited the 2021 case of John Hurley, who shot a suspect for shooting a police officer in Arvada, Colo. Hurley killed the suspect but was shot by another officer after picking up the suspect’s rifle.
“It puts us more at risk,” Wells said. “When you look at states like Mississippi, where they don’t have any laws … their gun-death rate is significantly higher. The states with the strongest gun laws … are below the national average in gun deaths per one hundred thousand people.”