On December 20, 2023, United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney of the Central District Court’s Southern Division issued an order granting a preliminary injunction enjoining enforcement of certain challenged provisions of Senate Bill 2 against any individuals with permits to carry a concealed weapon.  The Court found the challenged provisions unconstitutional pursuant to N.Y. State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n. v. Bruen, 142 S. Ct. 2111 (2022). 

Background

On September 12, 2023, the California legislature passed Senate Bill 2 (“SB2”), which California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law on September 26, 2023.  SB2 adds Section 26230 to the California Penal Code and is set to take effect on January 1, 2024.  Ostensibly in response to the United States Supreme Court’s directives in N.Y. State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n. v. Bruen, 142 S. Ct. 2111 (2022), SB2 removes the good character and good cause requirements from the issuance criteria for granting a license to carry a concealed weapon (“CCW license” or “CCW permit”).  However, applicants must still undergo thorough background check under SB2.

SB2 provides that a person granted a CCW license “shall not carry a firearm on or into” twenty-six categories of places.  The Court stated that SB2 designates these as “sensitive places.”  Plaintiffs here were concealed carry permitholders and related organizations.  They challenged Penal Code sections 26230(a)(7), (8), (9), (10), (11), (12), (13), (15), (16), (17), (19), (20), (22), (23), and (26) which prohibited CCW permit holders from carrying in the following locations:

(7) Hospitals, mental health facilities, nursing homes, medical offices, urgent care facilities, and other places where medical services are customarily provided;

(8) Public transportation;

(9) Establishments where intoxicating liquor is sold for consumption on the premises;

(10) Public gatherings and special events;

(11) Playgrounds and private youth centers;

(12) Parks and athletic facilities;

(13) Department of Parks and Recreation and Department of Fish and Wildlife property, except hunting areas;

(15) Casinos and gambling establishments;

(16) Stadiums and arenas;

(17) Public libraries;

(19) Amusement parks;

(20) Zoos and museums;

(22) Churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship;

(23) Financial institutions; and

(26) Any other privately owned commercial establishment that is open to the public, unless the operator clearly and conspicuously posts a sign indicating that license holders are permitted to carry firearms on the property.

Plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction enjoining California from enforcing the challenged sensitive-place provisions of Section 26230, asserting that many of the restrictions violate their Second Amendment rights and deprive them of their ability to defend themselves and their loved ones in public.  Plaintiffs also sought to enjoin SB2 to the extent it makes any “parking areas” a “sensitive place.”

Discussion

The District Court explained that to obtain a preliminary injunction, Plaintiffs must establish that (1) they were likely to succeed on the merits, (2) they were likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, (3) the balance of equities tips in their favor, and (4) the public interest favors an injunction.  Winter v. Nat’l. Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008); AK Futures LLC v. Boyd Street Distro, LLC, 35 F.4th 682, 688 (9th Cir. 2022).

Likelihood of Success on the Merits

The Court first considered the likelihood of success on the merits, observing that the Second Amendment provides: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  U.S. Const. amend. II.  The Court stated that the “right to self-defense and to defend one’s family is fundamental and inherent to our very humanity irrespective of any formal codification,” and that “[t]he Second Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees law-abiding, responsible citizens the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense in case of confrontation.”  The Second Amendment “guarantee[s] the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation” both inside the home and outside it.  District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 592 (2008); Bruen, 597 U.S. at 20.  The text’s “right to ‘bear arms’ refers to the right to ‘wear, bear, or carry upon the person or in the clothing or in a pocket, for the purpose of being armed and ready for offensive or defensive action in a case of conflict with another person.’”  Bruen, 597 U.S. at 32 (quoting Heller, 554 U.S. at 584).

The Court explained that to determine whether a firearm regulation is consistent with the Second Amendment, the Supreme Court has created a two-step analysis.  First, a court evaluates whether “the Second Amendment’s plain text covers an individual’s conduct.”  Bruen, 597 U.S. at 17.  If it does, the regulation is presumptively unlawful unless the government can show that the regulation “is consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”  Id.

The Court determined that Bruen’s first step was metThe Court explained that Plaintiffs were “ordinary, law-abiding, adult citizens,” and are therefore “part of ‘the people’ whom the Second Amendment protects.”  Bruen, 597 U.S. at 31–32.  It was undisputed that the firearms they sought to carry into SB2’s listed places were “‘in common use’ today for self-defense.”  Bruen, 597 U.S. at 32.  Moreover, to obtain their CCW permits, Plaintiffs demonstrated “safe handling of, and shooting proficiency with, each firearm” they sought to carry. Finally, the Court stated that the plain text of the Second Amendment unquestionably protects Plaintiffs’ proposed course of conduct of carrying handguns outside the home for self-defense.  Bruen, 597 U.S. at 10.

Next, the District Court considered the second step of the Bruen analysis.  The Court explained that because the relevant SB2 provisions implicated conduct that the Second Amendment protects, they were presumptively unconstitutional unless the government could meet its burden to demonstrate that the provisions were “consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”  Bruen, 597 U.S. at 24.  To carry its burden, the government had to provide “historical precedent from before, during, and even after the founding [that] evinces a comparable tradition of regulation.”  Id. at 27 (cleaned up); see id. at 20 (reiterating Heller’s statement that “the public understanding of a legal text in the period after its enactment or ratification” was “a critical tool of constitutional interpretation”).  “[T]he most significant historical evidence comes from 1791, when the Second Amendment was adopted, and secondarily 1868,” when the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified.  Duncan v. Bonta, 2023 WL 6180472, at *20 (S.D. Cal. Sept. 22, 2023).

The Court noted that to carry its burden to show a regulation is supported by the nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation, the government need only “identify a well-established and representative historical analogue, not a historical twin.”  Bruen, 597 U.S. at 30.  “The core question is whether the challenged law and proffered analogue are ‘relevantly similar.’”  United States v. Rahimi, 61 F.4th 443, 454 (5th Cir.), cert. granted, 143 S. Ct. 2688 (2023) (quoting Bruen, 597 U.S. at 29).  “[W]hether modern and historical regulations impose a comparable burden on the right of armed self-defense and whether that burden is comparably justified are central considerations when engaging in an analogical inquiry.”  Bruen, 597 U.S. at 29.  The District Court added that the Supreme Court mentioned in Bruen that it is “settled” that certain, “relatively few” locations are “sensitive places” “where arms carrying c[an] be prohibited consistent with the Second Amendment.”  Bruen, 597 U.S. at 30.

After extensive legal analysis, the District Court determined that California’s ban on CCW permitholders carrying firearms in each of the “sensitive place[]” locations enumerated in Penal Code section 26230(a)(7), (8), (9), (10), (11), (12), (13), (15), (16), (17), (19), (20), (22), (23), and (26) (as added by SB2, listed above) was not supported by any history or tradition of banning firearms in those locations nor by any analogy to “settled” sensitive places.  The Court repeatedly emphasized the core Second Amendment right to carry a firearm in public for self-defense, noting that those who obtained a CCW had gone through a lengthy permit application process including a thorough background check and safety and training course. 

Irreparable Harm In The Absence Of Preliminary Relief, and Balance of Equities

The District Court found that because Plaintiffs had demonstrated that it was likely that the challenged SB2 provisions violated their Second Amendment rights, they had demonstrated that irreparable harm was likely without a preliminary injunction enjoining the government from enforcing those provisions.  Moreover, the Court determined balance of the equities and the public interest weighed in favor of granting an injunction here.

The District Court accordingly issued an order determining that the challenged provisions of Senate Bill 2 were unconstitutional and granted a preliminary injunction enjoining enforcement of those challenged provisions.

HOW THIS AFFECTS YOUR AGENCY

Copies of both the injunction and the District Court’s order granting the injunction are attached to this Client Alert.  A District Court preliminary injunction of this nature takes effect immediately and has state-wide effect.  Accordingly, any law enforcement officer who is aware of this order is prohibited from enforcing the provisions of SB2 listed above.  The Attorney General may file an emergency motion for a stay of enforcement of the preliminary injunction, likely in conjunction with a writ with the Ninth Circuit.  Time will tell if the Attorney General takes that course of action.  The Attorney General previously did so with respect to a District Court’s injunction prohibiting enforcement of Penal Code section 32310, concerning so-called “large capacity magazines.”  We will keep you updated as this issue further develops in the courts.

As always, if you want to discuss any of this in greater detail, do not hesitate to contact James Touchstone at jrt@jones-mayer.com or by telephone at (714) 446-1400.Information on www.jones-mayer.com is for general use and is not legal advice.  The mailing of this Client Alert Memorandum is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client-relationship.

 (1) Reno May et al. v. Robert Bonta et al., Case No. SACV 23-01696-CJC (ADSx) (8:23-cv-01696-CJC-ADS).