SCOTUS ruling and California’s ‘open carry’ law

The U.S. Supreme Court, ruling 5-4 this morning in a challenge to Chicago’s handgun ban, ruled that the Second Amendment’s guarantee of an individual right to bear arms applies to state and local gun control laws.

As a practical matter, this means all kinds of state and local gun restrictions will now be subject to more judicial scrutiny. For California, it confirms the already-strong likelihood that AB 1934 – the pending bill that would outlaw “open carry” of unloaded, unconcealed firearms in public places – quickly will be met with a lawsuit if it’s signed into law.

AB 1934’s author is Assemblywoman Lori Saldana, D-San Diego; her office said she wasn’t available to be interviewed today, but issued this statement:

Lori SaldanaWe are reviewing the Justices’ decision in consultation with counsel and giving it the careful consideration required of a Supreme Court ruling. That said, we see nothing in the MacDonald decision that would suggest that it applies to legislation like AB 1934.

Justice Alito on page 40 of his decision reiterates the court’s reassurances in Heller that this decision should not be interpreted as overturning firearm regulations passed by the states and municipalities:

“We made it clear in Heller that our holding did not cast doubt on such longstanding regulatory measures as ‘prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill,’ ‘laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.’… We repeat those assurances here. Despite municipal respondents’ doomsday proclamations, incorporation does not imperil every law regulating firearms.”

Responsible Citizens of California is helping to lead the fight against AB 1934, and press secretary Yih-Chau Chang posted several celebratory blog items on the group’s website today.

“To Assemblywoman Lori Saldana, I would highly recommend that you withdraw the California anti-Open Carry bill, AB 1934, before you are further embarrassed when it fails in the State Senate or is found to be unconstitutional in a court of law,” he wrote. “This dog-and-pony show you dragged out into the public eye to parade in front of your liberal base just before your Assembly career ends was nothing more than a bid for votes to try and start your CA State Senate career. You had better wise up and withdraw AB 1934 while you can still save some political face.”

The Assembly passed Saldana’s bill earlier this month on a 46-30, party-line vote, and the state Senate Public Safety Committee approved it last week 4-3; it goes next to the state Senate Appropriations Committee, and then to the state Senate floor. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has not said whether he’ll sign it if it reaches his desk.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • CitizenX

    “…we see nothing in the MacDonald decision that would suggest that it applies to legislation like AB 1934.”

    Awoman Saldana, either you haven’t really read the decision, or you believe everyone in California is a felon and/or mentally ill. Some days, I think the latter may, in fact, be true.

  • Robert

    Now, where can I sign up for gun permit to carry?

  • Denver

    Stupid to support a gun law that only allow unloaded guns.

  • John W

    Ruling is no surprise. Let the games begin as the court sorts out in future rulings what rules and regs are acceptable or not. The Alito language referring to sensitive locations such as schools and government buildings might preclude restrictions in places not deemed sensitive (Raiders games, bars, Starbucks or anyplace a Supreme Court justice is unlikely to visit and be exposed to the consequences of thier rulings). What about registration, mandatory training, traceable ammo, types of firearms, loaded or unloaded, concealed and open, waiting periods, etc? The court will be doing rulings on this for the next 50 years.

  • John W

    Does the reference to mental illness mean Glenn Beck can’t get a gun?

  • Jeff Dunhill

    I am extremely happy with today’s ruling, however the challenge is not yet over for ensuring American’s right to keep and bear arms.

    Term-Ending Assemblyperson Saldana has yet to grasp the implications of this ruling, and clearly is willing to continue to waste taxpayer dollars and invite further litigation, at an even greater cost to this state, in order to justify her fear of law-abiding citizens who wish to have the ability to defend themselves.

    I also call on Ms. Saldana to retract AB1934. Californian’s are in a budget crisis, are releasing thousands of convicted felons, and are cutting law enforcement officers by the hundreds in nearly all parts of the state. It would behoove Lori to figure it out – it’s OUR right to self defense, it’s not the police’s job nor is it yours. If I have to depend on Ms. Saldana to protect the citizens of California, I will be moving.

  • see this anti-Saldana open carry ban bill video commercial at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgJmg1lVQ7M

  • BHO

    I think the reference to mental illness relates to Joe “Dumbass” Biden.

  • Common Tater

    Interesting that the decision is being spun by the anti-gun people as “that decision doesn’t apply to OUR laws!”

    What in blazes is a SCOTUS decision worth these days? Nothing?

  • John W

    Common Tater,

    Now that the Court has ruled, nobody says the Heller and McDonald decisions don’t apply to OUR laws. SCOTUS has deliberately remanded to the lower courts to begin the decades-long process of sorting out which rules & regs are constitutional and which are not. That’s the way the system works. There should be a boom in job opportunities for lawyers who specialize in challenging and defending gun laws.

    That said, I don’t see the internal consistency in the Court’s decisions. The Court’s selectively literalist majority decided that the last 14 words of the Second Amendment are not conditioned on the first 13 words: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State.” That’s very clever, when you think about it. If the court had decided that the first 13 words were controlling and that an individual right was necessary for the security of a free State, then how could they possibly turn around and focus on gun rights that have mostly to do with shooting burglars, hunting and gun hobbies? As they’ve framed the argument, they can and have said that, as with free speech, the rights are not absolute and can be subject to restrictions. But here’s the thing. We never needed a Second Amendment for those things — not in 1791 or in 2010. The right to protect oneself in the home is inherent common sense, certain cities’ outright bans notwithstanding. Obviously, the founders were specifically concerned, with good reason, about the “security of a free State” thing. We had to deal with the Brits again in 1812. That being the case, the logical conclusion would have been one of the following: (a) security of a free State is up to individuals under the Constitution; and, therefore, individuals have the right to own whatever state of the art “arms” are necessary to fight off invaders or a tyrannical government (i.e., muskets in 1791 and heavy arms like fully-automated assault rifles, RPG’s, grenades, tanks etc. in 2010) or (b) the “Johnny, get your gun” militias of 1776 have morphed into the highly organized National Guard, Armed Forces and Law Enforcement; and, therefore, the arms required for security of a free State can be kept in armories and borne by those who choose to join a unit of the modern-day militia. I would have preferred (b).

  • Jack

    I just love people who say “I support the Second Amendment, but…” Lori Saldana, wearing her “very stylish” bullet-proof vest, states that the very sight of a gun terrorizes people. So why dont you just allow law-abiding citizens to carry concealed unloaded. “Sheeple” (those who support Saldana, for example) would have no cause for alarm, law-abiding folk would still have have (most) of their rights. By the way, this is the law in New Mexico and last I looked, Compton is not in New Mexico.

  • Alany Helmantoler

    This legislation is extremely poor in writing and facts to substantiate the false claims made by author Saldana. Intent is not fact and facts do not support such a matter.

    This will have direct local fiscal impacts on our already struggling cities and counties. Timing is the worst I have ever seen to shift the burden of such a poorly written bill onto those who have been hit hardest by this in CA. The excessive court costs, fines, trials and lawsuits that will result will be a direct burden on a troubled economy. There may be no fiscal impact to the general fund but this creates a mandated local program which the offices will be forced to enforce which creates additional burdens.

    Unintended by the author of this bill, it loosens school zones of people who cannot lawfully own a gun which is already a crime but will not be as harsh if that person is on a school campus. This WILL impact gun violations on school campuses in a negative way.

    This will affect our local police both with enforcement and being able to get reasonably to work without violating the provision of this law that apply to police while not on duty. Our police will become criminals as well as all those law abiding gun owners who should be granted concealed weapons permits but due to unfair, unequal practices this is near impossible.

    Firearms laws like this further damage our ability to focus our resources where they should remain which is, those who choose to commit crimes. This bill is as one said is “a solution in search of a problem”.

    If there wishes to be non visible firearms and reasonable regulations then that is what concealed weapons permits were designed for. Under CCW police can check ID and this keeps firearms regulated like this author is attempting to do under this law. People have to have a way NOT to commit a crime while exercising their legal rights under the constitution and in cases of personal danger. There is no provisions to self protection. This violates fundamentals rights as well as common sense.

    Why do guns always have to be loaded? Answer that question for the prize. Isn’t an unloaded gun safer. I will explain further and to much greater detail to ALL Senators who are voting on this.

    I will keep my free speech rights. I will not allow the history of this to hinder that ability and the media should not either. Government does not belong using free speech and assembly activities against people. Name calling and just making stuff up like what has been done is catchy for news to use but still not the facts. I refrain from name calling like this and hope someone will draw the curtain and look through the window through all this mud created as a distraction of the facts. There are facts and I expect all SENATORS to read through these facts and stop taking elected officials manipulating words for it. I hope our Senate looks at what is now headed their direction because it is not what the author say it is, it is much more.

    By the way to comment above, misuse of government property such as with an issued vest is a misuse and if someone wants to follow up please feel free. This is not an approved use of government property and the costs if they came from someone lobbying on behalf of this is considered a gift to her office she must disclose. Assembly are not allowed to accept gifts and there was a monitary value to this activity. I expect to see this on her contributions statement or disclosed as appropriate. She did not use her own money, that has been publically admitted.