In a stunning decision on February 13, 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that California's broad limits on the issuance of concealed carry licenses "impermissibly infringe on the Second Amendment right to bear arms in lawful self-defense."
Since the implementation of the concealed weapons permit program in California, issuance of a permit to law-abiding citizens has been highly restricted. California has been considered to be a "may issue" state, meaning that the issuing authority may deny an otherwise qualified applicant because they cannot show "good cause" for needing a concealed weapons permit.
Issuing authorities in California are local law enforcement agencies, usually either the county sheriff or a city police department. In many parts of the state, getting a concealed carry permit is next to impossible. For example, in 2008 in Los Angeles County, there were less than 2,000 permits issued. The population of LA County in the same year was approximately 9.3 million people.
In urban areas like San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, concealed carry permit applications have been routinely denied, while in more rural areas of the state or in locations where local law enforcement was more 'gun friendly', concealed carry permits were much more easily obtained. This inconsistent application of state law was one of the reasons for the court challenge.
In the case Peruta, et al v. County of San Diego, the plaintiffs argued that implementation of the "good cause" provision for determining whether or not an applicant would be issued a permit infringed on the Second Amendment rights of the plaintiffs. The original district court decision held that the "important and substantial interest in public safety" trumped the plaintiffs' Second Amendment interests.
In overturning the district courts ruling, the majority opinion said the restrictions violated the Second Amendment's guarantee of the right to bear arms because they denied law-abiding citizens the ability to carry weapons in public unless they could show they needed protection for specific reasons.
Current rules in California will remain in place, pending appeals. It is very likely that the County of San Diego will request that the case be considered by a larger Ninth Circuit panel. Many legal experts predict that the case will ultimately go before the U.S. Supreme Court.
California is one of seven states that have highly restrictive concealed carry rules. Forty-three states are either states that have liberal "shall issue" policies or are completely unrestricted.