A hearing in a lawsuit filed against the County of San Diego and Sheriff William Gore claiming that the county picks and chooses who may obtain a conceal gun permit took place in the Federal District Court in San Diego this past week. The case has now passed another hurdle in federal court and the plaintiffs and supporters of Second Amendment rights will now wait the three-to-four weeks for a written decision by Senior Federal Judge Erma Gonzalez.
The crux of the case centers on the “shall issue” versus the “may issue” status that the state of California doesn’t adhere to equally throughout the state’s 58 counties. The lead plaintiff Edward Peruta argues he has been wrongfully declined a Conceal Carry Weapon (CCW) permit, even though he has permits to carry a openly and concealed firearm issued by three other states together with letters of recommendations and other information either submitted with his application or available to anyone doing a standard CCW investigation.
The plaintiffs contend the Sheriff’s Department finds favor with prominent wealthy elite residents as well as those who belong to the Honorary Deputy Sheriff’s Association, an organization that funds many praiseworthy projects and equipment purchases for the Sheriff Department which may not otherwise be available due to current budget restrictions.
“Every resident, taxpayer and voter of San Diego County should be outraged that the Sheriff offers the right to bear arms for “SELF DEFENSE” to the prominent, wealthy and/or well connected while refusing the same right to the average everyday hard-working law abiding residents of San Diego County,” Peruta said.
At the hearing held Monday in Federal Court, San Diego Attorney Paul Neuharth together with the Los Angeles County firm of Attorney Chuck Michel threw words out like “licensing schemes” and “preferential treatment” as to how the County of San Diego conducts business with regards to the CCW application process.
While the county contends they grant the majority of the CCW applications they receive, what they didn’t tell the court is the Sheriff’s office initially and informally tells possible applicants, after a few minutes of office review, that they don’t qualify and if they continue forward they will lose any application funds paid and have a negative record on their Department of Justice file.
The lawsuit against the county was filed in October of 2009 after they repeatedly road-blocked Peruta’s CCW application and he felt he had no other recourse but to sue the county to protect his and other resident’s rights to carry concealed loaded firearms under the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment.
“Honesty, fairness and full disclosure during the CCW application process could have saved the county a great deal of time and yet to be determined tax dollars,” Peruta said.
And the case if decided in the Plaintiff’s favor will indeed cost the already broke County of San Diego. This federal case will have one of two outcomes; either the CCW licensing process will be dramatically loosened or the county will win and continue their current policies. In light of the second event, Peruta, with the help of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the California Rifle and Pistol Association will take the case to the 9th circuit court where the ramifications will have far more reach than the state of California.
For those who don’t think gun rights enthusiasts are going to win in liberal California, two recent landmark gun cases prove otherwise. First the Heller case (decided by the Supreme Court in 2008) gave residents in a federal enclave the right to “keep and bear arms;” and the McDonald case (decided by the Supreme Court in June of this year) extended the Second Amendment to the states to ensured that citizens were allowed to “keep and bear arms” without the individual states placing burdensome restrictions on the Second Amendment provision to own a firearm.
The heart of the McDonald case centered around a citizens’ right to own a firearm even when their life is not faced with an eminent threat, but to have the ability to protect themselves if or when a threat occurs.
In the Peruta case, attorneys for the plaintiffs argue that the county’s “good cause” process is “too burdensome” because it requires residents to provide a law enforcement or court document, like a police report or restraining order, in order to prove their life is in danger.
This paper disclaimer was ruled out by the judges in the McDonald/Heller cases where they proclaimed it is a fundamental human right for citizens to have means for immediate self defense in the event of a confrontation.
The CCW federal lawsuit participants openly admit they are not seeking the banishment of the application process contained in the California Penal Code and realize the Constitution can require “hoops to jump through,” but it is the government’s burden to show proof that a resident is not fit to carry and own a firearm and apply the policy evenly to all applicants.
During the two-hour hearing before Federal Judge Gonzalez arguments and responses to questions from the bench were made after Judge Gonzalez peppered them with what appeared to be well reasoned questions about the issues before the court. At the midway point in the hearing Judge Gonzalez made it a point to ask the plaintiffs exactly what they were seeking in the case.
The plaintiff’s replied that San Diego County policy must accept the desire of self defense, without prejudice, without the need to explain or document any pending threats. This means equal protection must be granted under the 2nd and 14th Amendments to all applicants and not just a chosen few.
“The evidence obtained in the Federal Lawsuit clearly shows the San Diego County Sheriff’s Dept. has an established policy of separating its residents into two distinct groups, those that can and those that cannot carry firearms for self defense,” Peruta explained.
Once the plaintiff’s attorney addressed the court it was the county’s turn to speak.
The county’s case centered on the Heller case and went on to imply that the Heller decision only established a right to “keep and bear arms” inside the home. Attorney James Chapin the sole attorney presenting the county’s case at the hearing told the court that neither of the Supreme Court decisions in McDonald or Heller rulings provided and right to carry a firearm outside the home and went on to say that the decisions stated that the right to own a firearm is not unlimited.
He continued to argue that this case could make it far too easy for unsavory elements to obtain CCW’s and use that right to commit more crime. “Good cause has to mean something,” Chapin said.
The county also pointed to the fact it was always better for a person to contact law enforcement and let law enforcement deal with an impending threat.
While it may be true that law enforcement responds to calls for assistance, most cops on the beat openly say they cannot always respond in time to prevent crimes from occurring. In the real world it is a hard argument to win. It’s like asking a criminal to wait a few minutes for law enforcement to arrive before they commit their crime or inflict their intended harm on the unarmed victim. It doesn’t work like that in the real world.
Another flawed statement to the court, county counsel presented as fact that California already has “open carry” laws on the books which allows any citizen in good standing, to carry a firearm openly as long as it is not loaded. Chapin when on to further tell Judge Gonzalez that individuals in California are also able to wear unloaded firearms holstered on their hip and keep the ammunition somewhere else, like a pocket (which is a criminal offense under provisions of California law).
He then went on to tell the judge, with a straight face, that it only took three seconds to load a firearm.
It takes less than one second to take a life.
“Sheriff Gore and his staff’s first obligation should be to read, understand, abide by and uphold the law without regard to politics or emotion,” Peruta said. “The safety of my wife and family is just as important to me as it may be to the privileged members of the Honorary Deputy Sheriff’s Association.”
As closing arguments began Michel explained that “the right of self defense doesn’t end at the threshold of your home.”
He also said the county has been abusing its discretion by not granting CCW permits to worthy citizens.
This argument appeared to pique Judge Gonzalez interests. She also seemed interested and went as far as to question the fact that the 58 counties in California use different benchmarks for granting CCW permits.
The defense pleaded with the judge “not to strike the ‘good cause’ rule that has been law for 100 years in California.”
However, Michel provided the court with two important facts. “There are currently 37/38 states that are currently “shall issue” states. They also said they saw reductions in their violent crime rates, significant declines, because nobody wants to go duck hunting when five percent of the ducks can shoot back.”
The plaintiff’s asked the court to simply look at the firearm policy, and find that it should be applied fairly and keep political preference out of the right to “keep and bear arms.”
As the gavel fell, Judge Gonzalez acknowledged the legal significance of the case and said this precedent-setting 2nd Amendment case would have a written ruling in three-to-four weeks.
For those interested in the facts of this case, Mr. Peruta has published various facts at www.cagunrights.com.
For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/county-political-buzz-in-san-diego/kimberly-dvorak