Ninth Circuit Federal Court Panel Rules in Peruta versus San Diego, a Second Amendment Case

In the wake of the SCOTUS decisions in the Heller and McDonald cases, most federal courts have begun to assess second amendment (2A) cases in two stages.  In the first stage, they seek to determine whether the case at hand involves the 2A right.  If they decide that it does, they move on to stage two, which is to consider whether the state law (or county law, city law, etc.) under which the defendant was charged effectively destroys the defendant’s 2A right.  If they decide that it does (i.e., has the demonstrable effect in practice of making it impossible or inordinately difficult to exercise the right), then the law is struck down as being plainly unconstitutional.  Stage three is invoked if the judges decide that the law merely restricts the right rather than destroys it, and then other considerations come into play.

Peruta versus San Diego deals with the California statutes that define the conditions under which California citizens may be granted a permit to carry a handgun.  At issue was a provision that requires permit applicants to have a “good cause” for wanting a permit to carry a handgun.

An edited excerpt from constitutional law professor David Kopel’s post earlier this week at the Volokh Conspiracy law blog:

California law … also requires that the applicant have “good cause,” which was interpreted by San Diego County to mean that the applicant is faced with current specific threats.  (Not all California counties have this narrow interpretation.)  The Ninth Circuit, in a 2-1 opinion written by Judge O’Scannlain, ruled that Peruta was entitled to Summary Judgement, because the “good cause” provision violates the Second Amendment.

The Court ruled that a government may specify what mode of carrying to allow (open or concealed), but a government may not make it impossible for the vast majority of Californians to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms.


… the “good cause” requirement, as interpreted by San Diego, is a near-total destruction of the right to bear arms.  “Heller teaches that a near-total prohibition on keeping arms (Heller) is hardly better than a near-total prohibition on bearing them (this case), and vice versa.  Both go too far.”

The ruling was by a three-judge panel, not the full Ninth Circuit Court, and the next step may involve a re-consideration by the full eleven-member court (an en banc review).  Beyond that, the case may also be incorporated into a case before the Supreme Court, as there have been conflicting rulings among several Federal district courts on the base issue.

For more, click HERE to get to the Volokh Conspiracy blog, then search for “Peruta” to bring up all of their posts about the case.