In-Depth: Supreme Court 2nd Amendment case could impact San Diego

Court weighs question on concealed weapons permits
Posted at 6:08 AM, Nov 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-01 10:26:02-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments this week in a 2nd Amendment case that could have drastic impacts on gun laws in San Diego.

The case, New York Rifle and Pistol Association vs. Bruen, is the high court's first gun rights case in more than a decade. Experts think it could set the tone for gun control laws and court interpretations for decades to come.

"It's a perfect example of how we have this brief, in-general language in the Constitution that requires further interpretation," says Professor Glenn Smith from the California Western School of Law. "That can be very controversial."

At its core, the Bruen case is about two people whose applications for concealed-weapons permits in New York were denied.

But, according to filings in the Supreme Court, the plaintiffs want the court to address a bigger question: "Whether the Second Amendment allows the Government to prohibit ordinary law-abiding citizens from carrying handguns outside the home for self-defense."

Current laws in New York require people to show "proper cause" that they need protection when applying for a concealed-carry permit. In many cases, that means they work in a high-risk job or fear for their safety because they have a restraining order against a violent person.

"They can't just say I have a general concern about public safety or it's my right to carry a gun," explains Professor Smith.

"They've got to show that they face some kind of specialized concern."

That is similar to the law in California, where individual county sheriffs must approve all concealed-carry permits. According to the application in San Diego County, the person who applies must show "good cause" to need it.

Experts believe that if the Supreme Court overturns the "proper cause" requirement in New York for being too restrictive, the ruling will apply to "good cause" in San Diego.

"The question, in this case, is what restrictions are reasonable and when do they go too far with respect to an individual's right to keep and bear concealed weapons outside the home," says Legal Analyst Dan Eaton.

San Diego has already been a battleground for these kinds of 2nd Amendment cases.

Over the last few years, San Diego District Court Judge Roger Benitez has issued a handful of rulings against gun control laws. His rulings have weakened rules regarding magazine capacity and background checks. Judge Benitez also wrote the controversial opinion that compared an AR-15 to a Swiss Army knife.

Meanwhile, San Diego's "good cause" clause has already been challenged in court. In 2017, the case "Peruta vs. California" tried to get it overturned. The case made it to the Supreme Court, but the justices declined to hear it.

For the Bruen case, gun rights advocates hope the current Supreme Court, with newly appointed Judges Brett Cavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, will strike down the "proper cause" requirement.

They hope a broad ruling will set the stage for a loosening of gun restrictions across the board.

"Hopefully, the Supreme Court will see what a burden that is for sane, trained, law-abiding gun owners," says Michael Schwartz, the Executive Director of the San Diego County Gun Owners PAC.

"When you have some kind of subjective or political requirement that stops people from doing that (obtaining a concealed weapon permit), you're making the community less safe," he says.

But gun-control advocates say restrictions like New York's and California's have a long history in the U.S. They feel those laws should be difficult to overturn.

"This is a very extreme argument," says Hannah Shearer, the litigation director for the Giffords Law Center. "It would result in more people carrying guns in more public spaces with no questions asked."

"And there's even more at risk because the plaintiffs in the case want to use this case as the first step towards rolling back hundreds of gun safety laws across the country," she says.

Smith and Eaton say the Supreme Court could do three things in their ruling: They could rule against the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, thus keeping the rules in place.

They could also overturn the "proper cause" law but keep their ruling so narrow that it only impacts the two people listed in the court filing. Or, they could issue a broad ruling that would apply to other gun laws across the nation.

"The bottom line is that this is the court's first real opportunity to issue a ruling on the merits about 2nd Amendment restrictions outside the home," says Eaton.

"People always focus on who's going to win or lose, but it's really not that" adds Smith. "What's going to be more important is is how does someone win or lose."

Arguments in the case begin on Wednesday, Nov. 3. After that, it could take months before the justices issue their ruling.