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California AG Harris asks Peruta CCW reversal as SCOTUS eyes N.J.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris wants the Ninth Circuit to reverse its ruling on concealed carry.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California Attorney General Kamala Harris late yesterday asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to “review and reverse” its ruling on concealed carry in the Peruta v. San Diego County case – causing a flood of applications in two counties – while the Supreme Court could decide as soon as mid-April whether to hear a similar New Jersey case.

Peruta was a victory for the National Rifle Association earlier this month that San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore had announced he would not contest. But Harris, in an attempt to perpetuate the arbitrary discretionary permitting process employed by several California sheriffs, ignored Sheriff Gore’s decision. Harris’ announcement was today’s headline on the Gun Wire, a popular Drudge-like website that focuses on breaking gun-related news from around the nation.

In a statement to the press, Harris insisted, “Local law enforcement must be able to use their discretion to determine who can carry a concealed weapon. I will do everything possible to restore law enforcement's authority to protect public safety, and so today am calling on the court to review and reverse its decision.”

Her press release lamented, “If the Ninth Circuit’s ruling is allowed to take effect, officials throughout the State could be required to issue concealed-carry permits to individuals based on nothing more than the applicant’s assertion that they wish to carry a gun for self-defense.”

And what’s wrong with that, gun rights activists want to know. The exercise of a civil right should not be subject to the whims of a sheriff, judge (in the case of New Jersey) or other officials (in the cases of New York and Maryland). California gun rights activists are discussing this plenty on the Calguns Forum.

But Harris’ move just might be “too little, too late” if the Supreme Court grants review on a petition from Second Amendment Foundation attorney Alan Gura in the New Jersey case of Drake v. Jerejian. That’s the case challenging the Garden State’s totally arbitrary permitting scheme that is joined by the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs and private citizens. The high court could conference on that petition as early as April 18.

Gura filed a ten-page supplemental brief to the court on Wednesday that brings in the added importance of the Ninth Circuit panel’s Peruta decision, which, if it stands, adds more urgency for the court to take a carry case. A decision is necessary to solve a significant split in the lower courts on just what limits may be placed on the exercise of Second Amendment rights outside the home.

According to Fox News, since the Peruta ruling two weeks ago, more than 500 applications for concealed carry permits have been filed with just the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. That number, the report said, is “roughly the total number of applications” filed in all of last year.

That clearly indicates Californian’s want to exercise their right to bear arms, but anti-gunners like Harris are standing in their way. Several legal experts considered it a virtual certainty that Harris or someone else would seek an en banc hearing before the Ninth Circuit in hopes of reversing the Peruta ruling. What may not be as certain is whether that court will grant such a hearing.

The Washington Times’ Emily Miller noted Wednesday that pressure is building on the Supreme Court to take the Drake case. As this column reported earlier, 19 state attorneys general filed an amicus brief supporting Drake review, as did 34 members of Congress, and in separate briefs, the NRA, Gun Owners Foundation, Cato Institute and three other organizations.

If the high court takes Drake and rules in favor of gun owners, it would force a handful of states to join the rest of the country in adopting so-called “shall issue” statutes that strip arbitrary authority away from anti-gun bureaucrats to deny carry permits or licenses because applicants could not show “good cause” or a “need” to carry for personal protection. It would also lay to rest arguments by gun prohibitionists that the right to bear arms is limited to one’s home.

But that's a big "if." The court has already declined to review carry cases from Maryland and New York.

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