Lawsuit filed challenging California's open carry ban

Taking a cue from an appeals court decision upholding the state’s strict “may issue” concealed carry doctrine, gun owners in the Golden State filed suit Wednesday seeking to carry them openly again.

On Monday, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals shot down requests from gun rights groups to rehear cases in which an 11-judge panel of the court held in June that the right to carry a concealed firearm in public is not, and never has been, protected by the Second Amendment.

At the heart of the matter was the right to carry a gun outside the home for personal protection, which advocates felt the court dodged when they concentrated on the concealed carry aspect alone and not carry rights overall.

As California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that did away with open carry in 2011, the only avenue to keep and bear arms in the state since then has been to obtain a permit from the local sheriff or police chief. However, the process is easier said than done due to the state’s allowance for “may-issue” permitting using a “good-cause” requirement administered by local authorities.

Now, with sheriffs still allowed to decline to issue concealed carry permits, a group of Los Angeles County residents — Michelle Flanagan, Samuel Golden, Dominic Nardone and Jacob Perkio — with the support of the California Rifle and Pistol Association, want to be able to openly carry and have named state Attorney General Kamala Harris and L.A. County Sheriff James McDonnell in a federal lawsuit to be able to do just that.

They maintain that McDonnell is so miserly in issuing carry permits that to even seek one is futile. A 2015 report from the Center for Investigate Reporting found that L.A. County, with a population of over 10 million, only had 560 active permits of which at least 87 of those were issued to judges.

“Because California law prohibits them from openly carrying firearms and Defendant McDonnell denies them the only lawful means of carrying a concealed firearm, Plaintiffs are completely barred from exercising their right to bear arms — in any manner,” argues the 31-page filing. “They are thus entitled to relief from the complete abrogation of their fundamental rights.”

The group is seeking the courts either find that California’s laws prohibiting the open carry of firearms violate the Second Amendment or, that the policies limiting carry of a concealed firearm for self-defense are unconstitutional.

The effort is being led in court by Long Beach attorney C.D. “Chuck” Michel, who argues the 9th Circuit painted themselves into a corner on the issue of carry rights, creating an instance similar to the one that Washington D.C. did in the lead up to the groundbreaking Heller decision in 2008.

“Because the 9th Circuit upheld prohibitions on carrying concealed firearms, California’s laws that ban residents from openly carrying a firearm are naturally called into question,” Michel told Wednesday. “The Supreme Court made clear that the government can’t completely prohibit law-abiding citizens from carrying a firearm for self-defense against criminals and terrorists — so something has to give.”

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, is Case 2:16-cv-06164, Flanagan v. Harris.

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