SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A federal judge ruled Monday there is no constitutional right to carry a hidden gun in public — a decision that dealt a setback to gun-rights advocates who had challenged how much discretion California law enforcement officials have in issuing concealed weapons permits.
U.S. District Court Judge Morrison England Jr. in Sacramento supported a policy by Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto that says applicants must have a reason, such as a safety threat, to legally carry a concealed weapon in his county northwest of Sacramento.
Prieto was sued by opponents claiming sheriffs, who issue most concealed weapons permits, must give the documents to any applicant as long as they are not mentally ill, do not have a criminal background and complete a training course.
England signed the ruling Friday and it was filed in court on Monday.
Gun rights groups have filed similar lawsuits in Maryland, Massachusetts and New York, but Alan Gura of Alexandria, Va., an attorney for the gun groups, said none of the cases have been resolved.
Gura filed a notice Monday saying the groups will appeal Judge England's decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
Gura had argued that Prieto's policy gives the sheriff arbitrary discretion over a fundamental constitutional right to bear arms.
England countered that California law currently lets gun owners carry an unloaded weapon so it can be quickly loaded and used in self-defense if needed.
As a result, "Yolo County's policy does not substantially burden plaintiffs' right to bear and keep arms," England wrote in his 16-page decision.
Meanwhile, the California state Assembly approved a bill Monday by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, which would ban openly carrying unloaded handguns in public.
Portantino introduced the measure after some gun rights activists carried unloaded weapons in public as a political statement. The bill, AB144, now moves to the state Senate.
Gura said the gun groups disagree with England's open carry 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," Gura said. "They're not going to have time to start loading their handgun. Criminal events usually play out more quickly than that."
The pending legislation is unlikely to affect the appeal because the gun rights groups did not base their lawsuit on California's open carry law, said Prieto's attorney Serena Mercedes Sanders.
The Yolo County appeal is pne of two concealed carry lawsuit currently pending before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, she said.
A federal judge in the Southern District of California in December ruled against gun-rights organizations in a San Diego County case. That lawsuit was brought by a different attorney who used different legal arguments.
"No case has held that there is a right to carry a concealed weapon," Sanders said.
England also ruled against gun advocates' argument that Prieto's policy of requiring that applicants be of "good moral character" gives the government "unbridled discretion" over who can get a permit.
Prieto's seven-page policy limits permits to those who can demonstrate they have been victims of a violent crime, have had threats of violence, or business owners who carry large amounts of cash.
The Second Amendment Foundation, Calguns Foundation and three individuals sued in 2009, alleging Prieto's policy also violates First Amendment free speech rights and Fourteenth Amendment equal protection guarantees.
The judge disagreed.
"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," England wrote.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.
And just like that, the end of summer is approaching! The Hopper, San Diego’s newest “hop on & off” double-decker tour bus, is letting kids ride free for the month of August!
A San Diego County sheriff's deputy already facing charges that he groped 13 women while on duty pleaded not guilty Monday to five new charges, including forcible oral copulation.
A man and his son made a dramatic attempt to escape a raging wildfire in Montana and they captured it on video.
Opponents of California’s gas tax increase are ramping up their efforts to build support for a repeal initiative.
Temperatures stay near average, varying by a few degrees throughout the week. Slight chance of thunderstorms through Tuesday for mountain and desert locations.
Two San Diego County community colleges announced Monday they expect to waive tuition for thousands of first-time, full-time students as part of the California College Promise program.
A Rancho Penasquitos teen is getting ready for his first day of school this week with his new service dog. The senior at Mt. Carmel High School was injured in a horrific car crash and is now in a wheelchair.
Researchers carrying out unprecedented efforts to save an ailing young killer whale in the U.S. Northwest released live salmon into waters in front of the free-swimming orca but didn't see her take any of the fish.
San Diego police are searching for an assault with a deadly weapon suspect in the vicinity of Euclid Avenue and Home Avenue in Chollas Creek Monday and are asking the public to avoid the area.
Three bills authored by San Diego-area legislators were signed into law Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown, including one that increases penalties in human-trafficking cases and another limiting interactions between male correctional officers and female prisoners.