Riverside County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff Stone is praising a federal court decision favoring gun owners who want to carry concealed handguns for personal defense, saying the ruling was a victory for "Second Amendment rights."
"I'm in shock," Stone told City News Service on Thursday when informed about the 2- 1 decision in Peruta v. County of San Diego. "I can't believe the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals made a ruling that actually upholds the Constitution."
Stone drew parallels between the court decision and a resolution he authored in November 2009 that called on Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff to remove barriers law-abiding residents might otherwise face when applying for concealed firearms permits.
"My resolution stated simply that if a law-abiding person comes forward and says, 'I want to carry a gun for personal protection,' they should be granted that request," Stone said.
The Peruta case involved five San Diego County residents, led by Edward Peruta, who had sought or were considering obtaining permits to carry concealed pistols for protection. According to court papers, the plaintiffs' applications had either been rejected -- or they feared that, based on county criteria, they would be rejected.
The plaintiffs sued the county, alleging violations of their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. They specifically pointed to the statewide standard, applied in San Diego and the state's 57 other counties, of requiring gun permit applicants to demonstrate "good cause" in order to justify being granted a permit.
The plaintiffs argued that the criterion was arbitrary and opened the door to abridging "constitutionally protected conduct" rooted in the Second Amendment, according to the Ninth Circuit ruling.
The lawsuit made no headway in state court, resulting in the federal appeal.
Ninth Circuit Judges Diarmuid O'Scannlain and Consuelo Callahan ruled that the state's "good cause" provision was inconsistent with previous rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court that recognized "the right to protect oneself against public and private violence, thus extending the right in some form to wherever a person could become exposed to ... violence."
"It brings to mind scenes such as a woman toting a small handgun in her purse as she walks through a dangerous neighborhood, or a night-shift worker carrying a handgun in his coat as he travels to and from his job site," the judges wrote.
In his dissenting opinion, Judge Sidney Thomas argued that handguns should be limited to individuals who can show a clearly legitimate need to carry one -- the foundation for the "good cause" standard.
"It limits the risk to public safety by reducing the number of guns in public circulation, but allows those who will most likely need to defend themselves in public to carry a handgun," Thomas stated.
Stone, a gun owner, told City News Service he won't be surprised if the California Attorney General's Office appeals the 2-1 federal decision invalidating the "good cause" limitation.
"In the meantime, I would hope that sheriffs across the state honor the Second Amendment rights of their citizens," Stone said. "With the state releasing felons into our communities to make room in prisons, that's all the more reason people should have the means to protect themselves."
Stone used the rationale behind his 2009 resolution as an example.
"I wrote that at the request of an Iraq War veteran," Stone said. "He went over there to defend this country, carrying a gun, and yet when he got back, he couldn't carry one here, even though he lived in a dangerous neighborhood. People have the right to protect themselves and their families."
– By Paul Young, City News Service.