Court finds retired police officers exempt from Calf. campus carry ban

A federal judge ruled last week that California’s new ban on the concealed carry of firearms doesn’t apply to retired law enforcement members.

Proposed by state Democrats, SB 707 passed the Senate in a 23-12 vote last June sending it to the Assembly where it cleared in a largely partisan 54-24 roll call in September, moving it to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. Though gun rights groups threatened a lawsuit and delivered some 40,000 individual letters from concerned Californians calling for Brown to reject the bill, he signed the measure into law in October.

Backed by a mix of public university heads, police lobby groups and gun control advocates, those who violate the new law are liable for a felony charge resulting in as much as five years in state prison.

Exemptions are in place for current and retired law enforcement officers to carry if authorized by their former agency, the latter of which, gun rights groups argue, is a violation of the Constitution on 14th Amendment equal protection grounds, citing a 2002 precedent.

“The Ninth Circuit decided well over a decade ago that retired police officers are no different than retired plumbers for the purposes of gun laws,” Firearms Policy Coalition President Brandon Combs told prior to filing suit. “SB 707 deepens the divide between law enforcement and the millions of good, law-abiding people they serve. It’s bad policy and it’s unconstitutional.”

The FPC along with the Madison Society Foundation, Firearms Policy Foundation, and Calguns Foundation joined with 11 individuals with licenses to carry concealed weapons and a reason to be present in a school zone to challenge the retired law enforcement protection loophole in the law by filing suit in federal court this April.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell, a 2013 appointment from President Obama, ruled against the plaintiffs and upheld the carve out for retired LEOs, granting California Attorney Gen. Kamala Harris’s motion to dismiss.

O’Connell held that retired police officers might have created enemies in their interactions on the job that require them to be able to defend themselves even after their public service has ended.

“This need for self-protection does not disappear simply because the retired peace officer is within 1,000 feet of a school,” she wrote. “Therefore, allowing retired peace officers an exemption from the general ban of carrying concealed weapons on school property is rationally related to the legitimate state interest of ensuring their protection.”

O’Connell likewise shot down the plaintiffs’ argument that the Legislature was trying to prejudice civilian firearm owners under the Equal Protection Clause when it retained the retired peace officers’ exemption, saying there was no evidence of intent by lawmakers to disarm civilians while allowing former LEOs to remain armed, even though that is what the law accomplished.

“Absent evidence of explicit legislative intent to cause harm to civilian gun owners, Plaintiffs cannot establish a violation of the Equal Protection Clause under this theory,” said O’ Connell.

Combs told the group has already filed an appeal to the U.S. Ninth Circuit and is not giving up the fight.

“The government keeps trying to put law-abiding gun owners in jail while giving its retired employees special privileges to keep them out of jail,” said Combs. “Either we’re all going to fight unconstitutional laws together or we’re going to hang together. Their choice.”

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