Crime, Fire + Courts

Appellate ruling strikes down Yolo concealed-weapon policy

By From page A1 | March 07, 2014

A federal appellate ruling has struck down Yolo County’s long-standing policy of granting concealed-weapon permits to residents who must first demonstrate “good cause” for holding the license.

In a three-page memorandum issued Wednesday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled that “the Yolo County policy impermissibly infringes on the Second Amendment right to bear arms in lawful self-defense.” The decision overturns a previous ruling in U.S. District Court in Sacramento that upheld the policy.

The court action targeted Yolo County and its sheriff, Ed Prieto, whose office issued the following statement Wednesday:

“We received the 9th Circuit Court’s decision today and we now we have 14 days to decide whether to pursue a petition for rehearing by a larger panel of the court. We will be discussing this with our counsel before deciding our next course of action.”

As currently written, Yolo County’s concealed-weapon permit policy largely mirrors those of other counties, requiring applicants to be local residents at least 21 years of age, of good moral character and free of criminal convictions, among other criteria.

But it also calls for applicants to demonstrate “good cause” for seeking the license, such as being the victim of a violent crime, or a business owner who carries large amounts of cash or works in remote areas and is “likely to encounter dangerous people and situations.” Self-protection and protection of family, absent a threat of violence, is considered an invalid reason for requesting a permit.

Yolo County currently has 199 concealed-weapon permits issued, Capt. Larry Cecchettini said Thursday.

Wednesday’s appellate decision was praised by the Second Amendment Foundation, which served as a plaintiff in the lawsuit along with Calguns Foundation Inc. and two private citizens, Adam Richards and Brett Stewart, who argued that the good-cause requirement “prevents a responsible, law-abiding citizen from carrying a handgun in public for the lawful purpose of self-defense.”

“Today’s ruling reinforces the Second Amendment’s application to state and local governments, and will help clear the way for more California citizens to exercise their right to bear arms,” Alan M. Gottlieb, the Second Amendment Foundation’s founder and executive vice president, said in a news release. “California officials have been put on notice that they can no longer treat the Second Amendment as a heavily regulated government privilege.”

The ruling largely resembles a larger published decision the 9th Circuit Court handed down last month in the case of Peruta vs. County of San Diego, which also involved a “good cause” issue and was argued on the same day as the Yolo County case.

Although Yolo County’s legal counsel contended its policies differed from those shot down in the San Diego case, the 9th Circuit Court panel — comprising Judges Diarmuid O’Scannlain, Sidney Thomas and Consuelo Callahan — disagreed.

Thomas, who dissented in the San Diego ruling, concurred with the decision in the Yolo County case, but only if Peruta vs. San Diego is upheld in further challenges.

“Absent Peruta, I would hold that Yolo County’s ‘good cause’ requirement is constitutional because carrying concealed weapons in public is not conduct protected by the Second Amendment,” Thomas wrote. “I also would have held, in the alternative, that even if the good cause requirement implicated the Second Amendment, the policy survives immediate scrutiny.”

Originally filed in 2009, the Richards lawsuit targeted concealed-weapon policies in both Yolo and Sacramento counties, but was revised after the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department relaxed the policy for that jurisdiction several years ago.

— Reach Lauren Keene at [email protected] or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene

Lauren Keene

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