Editor’s note: Supreme Court gun ruling ushering in a frightening new era

With the US Supreme Court ruling Thursday, the United States, and California in particular, is entering a frightening and uncertain era of gun deregulation.

In a 6-3 ruling, a conservative majority of the Supreme Court struck down New York’s concealed weapon law, jeopardizing California’s similarly restrictive rules that require permits from local police or sheriff’s departments.

The Supreme Court has ruled since 2008 that the Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms in the home in self-defense. Thursday’s ruling expanded this to carry weapons in public.

What is clear is that, with a few exceptions, almost everyone will be able to bear arms. There will be more guns on our streets. There will be more filming. More people will die. The breadth of the solution is breathtaking.

What’s not clear is what gun restrictions will remain in place. For states to restrict gun ownership, “the government must demonstrate that the regulation is consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of regulating firearms,” ​​Judge Clarence Thomas wrote in the majority opinion.

What that means remains to be seen by the lower courts. But in concurring opinion, Judge Brett Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts provide some clarity. California lawmakers can use this as a starting point to defend and change some of the state’s gun laws as needed—and they need to do it quickly.

The biggest legal issue with California’s current concealed weapon regulations is the leeway given to local law enforcement. Indeed, even ardent advocates of strict gun regulations should be put off by the state’s wide variation in local standards, which for decades allowed sheriffs to issue gun permits to political supporters and deny similar permits to others.

A Supreme Court ruling overrides that discretion. The ruling removed “May Grant” regimes, similar to those in six states, including New York and California, which provide “unlimited discretion” to licensing authorities and require applicants to show special needs.

But this ruling does not affect the mandatory licensing regimes in the 43 states with objective standards. These states’ requirements include, for example, fingerprinting, background checks, mental health record checks, and training in firearms and laws regarding the use of force. These are still legal requirements.

While it’s unfortunate that states like California casually left gun permits open to political manipulation, it’s also troubling that the Supreme Court has effectively stated that almost anyone can carry guns in most places.

To be sure, the ban on possession of firearms by criminals and the mentally ill may still be in place. States can still ban the carrying of firearms in high-value locations such as schools and government buildings, although as Judge Steven Breyer noted in his dissent, it’s unclear whether the rules are acceptable for subways, nightclubs, movie theaters and sports stadiums. And the Supreme Court still allows a ban on carrying “dangerous and unusual weapons,” which seems to leave open the issue of military weapons.

However, the decision of the Supreme Court will lead to the spread of weapons on our streets. The challenge for California legislators is to protect the rules that remain in place.

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