In the two months since a federal court sided with gun owners and found California's law on concealed-weapons permits unconstitutional, nearly 4,000 residents in Orange County, population 3.1 million, have applied for one, eight times the number usually logged in a year. While no permit is required to own a gun, California residents must obtain one to carry a concealed weapon outside their home or business. The surge in Orange County and a handful of other counties stunned law enforcement officials and offered a striking demonstration of the frustration of gun owners. It also showed the complicated politics of weapon regulation in a state with a large and ever-expanding catalog of gun control legislation. The ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, one of the most liberal appeals courts in the nation, sets up a potential battle over gun control before the Supreme Court. If the full Ninth Circuit court upholds the panel's decision, the Supreme Court is likely to take the case, to reconcile the conflicting decisions of different circuit courts.
“This case definitely has the potential to go to the Supreme Court,” said Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. “The biggest unanswered questions with the Second Amendment today are whether the right extends outside of the home, and what kind of permitting states and cities can impose. Gun rights advocates have been pushing the Supreme Court to declare that there is a right to carry concealed firearms outside the home.” Meanwhile, Orange County has spent $1.6 million to hire 14 part-time workers, many working through the weekend, in response to the crush of applications, which has overwhelmed county telephones and office workers. There is now a 30-month wait to schedule the required in-person hearing to obtain a permit. California is one of 11 states that require applicants to meet some condition — including, in California, routinely traveling with a large sum of money or jewelry — to get a concealed-weapons permit, says the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
“If you're not a convicted felon, you are going to get a concealed-weapons permit,” said William D. Gore, the sheriff in San Diego County. “That's not the case in California. That frustrates a lot of people.”
Four states do not require a permit to carry a loaded weapon in public: Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming.
The 2-to-1 decision by the Ninth Circuit court, issued in February, found that California's law violated the Second Amendment. The state attorney general, Kamala D. Harris, intervened and urged the court to review the panel's decision, which she called a threat to public safety.