Federal Judge Rejects Law Suit Against Yolo County’s Concealed Gun Policy

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concealed-gunBack in March, the Vanguard reported that Yolo County had become the focus of a nationwide gun debate as a federal court on Thursday heard arguments in a case where gun-rights advocates have challenged the courts to determine how much discretion California’s law enforcement officials have in issuing concealed weapons permits.

County Sheriffs, the plaintiff argued, who handle the bulk of these situations, must issue permits to anyone who completes a training course and has no mental health problems or criminal background.

In so doing, they challenged a policy by Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto who argues that Yolo county residents “must prove they have a reason to carry a concealed weapon, such as a threat to their safety.”

On Monday, a federal judge ruled that there is no constitutional right to carry a hidden gun in public.

Instead, US  District Court Judge Morrison England, Jr., in Sacramento, supported the policy laid out by Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto that directs applicants to provide a reason, such as a safety threat, to legally carry a concealed weapon in Yolo County.

Similar lawsuits have been filed in other jurisdictions, but this is the first resolved.  The conservative blog Paco Villa argued on Tuesday, “It is likely that at least one of them will end up before the Supreme Court somewhere along the line.”

Alan Gura, who filed the suit on behalf of the gun groups, filed a notice indicating the intent to appeal Judge England’s decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Mr. Gura argued that Sheriff Prieto’s policy would give law enforcement, in this case the sheriff, the arbitrary discretion over a fundamental constitutional right to bear arms.

Judge England countered in his decision that “Under the statutory scheme, even if Plaintiffs are denied a concealed weapon license for self-defense purposes from Yolo County, they are still more than free to keep an unloaded weapon nearby their person, load it, and use it for self-defense in circumstances that may occur in a public setting.”

“Yolo County’s policy does not substantially burden plaintiffs’ right to bear and keep arms,” Judge England wrote in decision.  “Sheriff Prieto retains discretion to issue a license to carry a concealed firearm to residents within Yolo County.”

“The Supreme Court of the United States recently clarified in a landmark case, and the “right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited,” the Judge wrote.

He further argued that the Second Amendment “does not create a fundamental right to carry a concealed weapon in public.”  He added, “The policy does not create a total ban on carrying a firearm, such that the policy completely infringes on the rights protected by the Second Amendment.”

“Regulating concealed firearms is an essential part of Yolo County’s efforts to maintain public safety and prevent both gun-related crime and, most importantly, the death of its citizens. Yolo County’s policy is more than rationally related to these legitimate government goals,” Judge England added.

Alan Gura said the gun groups disagree with England’s reasoning.

“Obviously, it doesn’t do anyone any good to walk around with an unloaded gun, especially in public, because that’s just an advertisement for a criminal to take it off your person,” Mr. Gura said. “They’re not going to have time to start loading their handgun. Criminal events usually play out more quickly than that.”

The suit alleged, “In addition to the successful completion of a background check and training, the issuance of a permit to carry a handgun is left to the discretion of the issuing authority, based upon that authority’s determination of whether the applicant ‘is of good moral character, [and] that good cause exists for the issuance of the permit.’ “

They allege that one of their plaintiffs, a law-abiding citizen, in March 2009 “contacted Defendant Prieto’s office to inquire about the process for obtaining a permit to carry a handgun. Defendant Prieto’s office advised Plaintiff Richards that the desire to have a gun available for self-defense would not constitute ‘good cause’ for the issuance of the permit, and that his application would be a ‘futile act.’ “

The suit continues, “Plaintiff Richards was further advised that as a matter of policy, his application would not be considered unless he first applied to the Chief of Police in the City of Davis, where Plaintiff Richards resides.”

According to the suit, Chief Landy Black denied the application in April 2009, stating, “An evaluation and comparison of our current services to available resources has forced us to discontinue processing and issuing CCW (Carry Concealed Weapon) licenses. I apologize for the inconvenience this action will cause you.”

Sheriff Prieto’s office was represented by Attorney Serena Mercedes Sanders.  She noted that, “No case has held that there is a right to carry a concealed weapon.”

Marc Halcon, President of the California Association of Firearms Retailers issued a statement on Monday, “One of the most fundamental rights we have as citizens of this country is the right to feel safe and secure, not only in our homes but within our community.”

He continued, “Although I question the logic of carrying an ‘unloaded’ firearm, I understand the concern of some of our lawmakers.  This entire situation would be solved in a matter of minutes if the State of California would follow the vast majority of the other states and allow for the ‘shall issue’ provision for law abiding citizens to carry a concealed weapon.”

He added, “A secondary benefit would be an increase in State revenue generated by the fees and tax’s associated with allowing a ‘shall issue’ licensing process for law abiding citizens.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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15 thoughts on “Federal Judge Rejects Law Suit Against Yolo County’s Concealed Gun Policy”

  1. davehart

    Okay, so the advantage goes to the bad guy whose gun is already loaded, but I think I can speak for most Davis residents when I say that nobody I know who is worth a crap with their weapon can’t get it ready to rock and roll in less than four seconds. I welcome the challenge.

  2. medwoman

    “One of the most fundamental rights as citizens of this country is the right to feel safe and secure, not only in our homes but within our community.”

    What about the rights of those of us who feel more safe and secure without our fellow citizens walking around with concealed weapons ?

  3. JayTee

    I agree with medwoman 100% on this issue. People often “lose it” for a number of reasons, and that doesn’t just apply to people with mental health problems or criminal backgrounds. I think I’d feel safer without having the person who I accidentally bump into with my shopping cart being armed and in a lousy mood.

  4. AeroDeo

    I don’t want to be viewed as a “gun nut” but it seems to me that most of the opponents to concealed carry permits are ignorant of the process, and firearms in general. Whether by choice, or by chance, an unfamiliarity with firearms typically leads to rejection because people fear what they don’t understand.

    The individuals that pursue concealed carry permits, are, by definition, law abiding citizens. At some point you have to trust your fellow citizen to be just that, a citizen, and all the responsibilities that entails. We, as a society, trust 16 year olds with 4000lb projectiles every day, provided they demonstrate minimum proficiency. Why should the issue of firearms be any different?

    I have no problem with forcing someone to demonstrate proficiency, and I believe that the bar should be sufficiently high as to filter out inexperience, which would be a vast improvement over our current processes for driver’s licenses, for instance. My problem is that, at a fundamental level, I don’t believe someone else should have the right to decide for me what tools I’m allowed to use when it comes to something as basic as self preservation, especially if I’ve proven myself to be a responsible, accountable, law abiding adult.

  5. Downtown

    There is no reasonable standard. The Sheriff has sole discretion as what qualifies as “good cause.” Keep in mind that, right now, a bill is moving through the legislature that would strip citizens of the ability to even carry unloaded firearms.

    People exercise rights every day that make other people uncomfortable. We wouldn’t tolerate an elected official making unilateral decisions as to what is a valid exercise of a right, and what is not. Yet that’s what Prieto can do.

  6. medwoman

    AeroDeo

    Sometimes “what seems to us” is not the case. I was raised with guns in the home. My father was an avid hunter, and taught me how to shoot. In this case, it is my familiarity that informs my opinion that many folks who think they are proficient enough to be walking around with a concealed weapon are not, and all it takes is one mistaken perception or one poorly aimed shot to end in tragedy.

  7. medwoman

    AeroDeo

    Some other thoughts about your post:
    1) With regard to proficiency: What “minimum”standard would you set, and how often would you propose retesting to ensure maintenance
    of proficiency?
    2) A major difference between Automobiles and firearms, at least in the urban setting, is that the former have a distinct purpose separate from
    their ability to harm or intimidate another human. And, if your concern is about the dangers of allowing teens ( or other minimally proficient)
    drivers on the road, the seemly response, would be to tighten this standard, not use it as a justification for introducing another danger.
    3) ” At some point you have to trust your fellow citizen to be just that, a citizen” From your statement, you can see that the difference in our
    positions is of line drawing. You trust your fellow citizens to carry concealed weapons. I trust my fellow citizens enough not to feel the
    need for a concealed weapon.
    4) Finally, why the need for concealment ? if you feel the need for a weapon,which I concede is your constitutional right, why not carry in the
    open ? This would allow those of us who do not feel safe in the presence of firearms in the urban setting to see that you are armed and
    avoid you thus enhancing my sense of safety ?

  8. E Roberts Musser

    Interesting, thought provoking discussion. I can see both sides. One thing I think that makes a difference is where you are. Citizens of Alaska, for instance, carry openly, and almost everyone has a gun on them for protection from wildlife. But I do remember seeing a police show one time, where an elderly man in a gun carrying state got drunk and abusive towards his wife. The police were worried about the guns in the house. So they called the son over, and had him remove all weapons. It’s a conundrum…

  9. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Do you have a particular problem with the ruling in this case where there seems to be a reasonable standard?[/quote]

    Interesting question. It seems a bit arbitrary for the Sheriff to decide what is “good cause”; yet who better to make that decision. I’m honestly not sure how I feel about the decision…

  10. AeroDeo

    Downtown stated my opposition well; my main objection is to the premise, rather than the outcome. Specifically, why is one person’s opinion more relevant than my own?

    medwoman:”…my opinion that many folks who think they are proficient enough to be walking around with a concealed weapon are not, and all it takes is one mistaken perception or one poorly aimed shot to end in tragedy.”

    I’ll play Devil’s advocate here… why are you qualified to determine that they are not proficient, especially when you haven’t set the bar? This again boils down to /opinion/ and that’s what I have a problem with.

    Also, your presumptions are entirely one sided, i.e. prevention can’t be measured. Look, I’m don’t want a wild west style, armed to the teeth community, (I settled here in to avoid that) but, if we all agree that we’re adhering to the constitution, I’m only allowed to make that decision for myself, not for anyone else. The idea that someone MIGHT be carrying a weapon is the point; it’s deterrence.

    1)With regard to proficiency: What “minimum”standard would you set, and how often would you propose retesting to ensure maintenance
    of proficiency?
    I’d start with the tests that current peace officers are required to complete in order to qualify annually. Probably not quite as extensive, but similar.
    2) A major difference between Automobiles and firearms, at least in the urban setting, is that the former have a distinct purpose separate from
    their ability to harm or intimidate another human.
    Agreed, but they’re also abused far more often, are far more prevalent, and are just as lethal. I’m not supporting something through muckraking, I’m trying to point out that our sensitivity to this is severe – just an observation.

    2a)And, if your concern is about the dangers of allowing teens ( or other minimally proficient)
    drivers on the road, the seemly response, would be to tighten this standard, not use it as a justification for introducing another danger.
    Indeed, as it should, but there’s still a point at which you have to let go of the reigns and turn over control.
    3) ” At some point you have to trust your fellow citizen to be just that, a citizen” From your statement, you can see that the difference in our
    positions is of line drawing. You trust your fellow citizens to carry concealed weapons. I trust my fellow citizens enough not to feel the
    need for a concealed weapon.

    It may indeed be a matter of line drawing, but, No, that is not my position. It’s not about trusting someone to carry, it’s that I’m not qualified to determine where the line is drawn, and neither are you. If you satisfy the requirements then you’re allowed, if not then, sorry, but “opinion” shouldn’t be part of the equation, it’s called the /right/ to bear arms either we treat it like one or we amend the constitution (lol, diving’s a privilege btw 🙂

    4) Finally, why the need for concealment ? if you feel the need for a weapon,which I concede is your constitutional right, why not carry in the
    open ? This would allow those of us who do not feel safe in the presence of firearms in the urban setting to see that you are armed and
    avoid you thus enhancing my sense of safety ?
    Agreed, but this is another issue entirely. I don’t necessarily agree, but the line of thought is one of deterrence – does he/she doesn’t he/she. Also, one might argue that open carry is a form provocation /shrug/.

  11. medwoman

    AeroDeo

    If we are going to be standing by the Constitution, then I think it is important to consider the context of the time in which it was written.
    The guns of the general population were not concealable. There is a constitutional right to bear arms, there is no constitutional right to concealment.

    The argument of deference, in my opinion is inconsistent with your argument about trusting other citizens. If we are always having to wonder whether another person may or may not harm us either deliberately, or accidentally ( and yes, accidents happen to even the most experienced
    – one need look no further than Cheney to recognize the truth of this) I fail to see how this enhances our sense of safety.

  12. jimt

    medwoman,

    I for one do feel more safe knowing that appropriately screened law-abiding citizens can carry firearms in public, concealed or exposed.

    The bad guys be carrying concealed regardless of the law–are you comfortable with this situation, and if not what do you propose can be done about it?

  13. Downtown

    Unfortunately for those who feel “safer” operating under the belief that others aren’t carrying concealed weapons… you’re deluding yourself. Keep an eye on the police reports, and watch how many arrestees are booked on concealed weapons charges, in addition to whatever bad thing thing he or she was doing to get the attention of the police in the first place.

    Since one is not lawfully permitted to carry a weapon concealed, or an unconcealed weapon loaded (and soon the “open carry” of an unloaded weapon will be illegal, per pending legislation), there is a significant issue of infringement under the second “bear” language of the 2nd Amendment; the case will be revisited as soon as the legislature bans open carry.

    No one would plausibly argue that there’s no 1st Amendment violation if typewriters were lawful, but ink was banned. Or that newspapers were permitted, but the internet could be censored (there’s your “reasonable alternative.”)

    California is one of the few remaining states that deprives its citizens of the ability to lawfully carry a concealed weapon through a permit process. And based on the statistics from the other states, CCW carriers are overwhelmingly law-abiding, and aren’t involved in incidents. States like Washington, Utah, and Oregon haven’t turned into the wild west. When someone has a lawful background, and obtains the training necessary to get a CCW, they don’t jeopardize that license (nor do they generally risk a felony conviction because he or she is having a “bad day.”)

    For many of us, our careers and lives take us places where threats do exist, however unlikely. Many of us are unwilling to trust in fate, or simply gamble that we won’t have trouble. I refuse to be a victim. I suspect you have a smoke alarm, and a fire extinguisher, in your house, despite the unlikelihood of a fire. You’re statistically more likely to die from a fall from a ladder changing the smoker alarm battery, than to die in a fire. But you have the alarms anyway.

    There is a whole world out there that isn’t the Davis Farmers Market Picnic in the Park.

  14. jimt

    Downtown,

    Good post! Many of the contributors to this forum are perched in golden cages, and are not faced with living or working as a law-abiding citizen in crime-ridden neighborhoods; with additional legal restrictions that hamper them from protecting themselves from thugs and other violent criminals (who are well aware of these restrictions and take advantage of the situation).

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