San Diego Sheriff will not seek 9th Circuit en banc in Peruta right to carry case

February 21

Late this afternoon, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office issued a press release announcing that it will not seek en banc review of the Peruta decision, which was issued last Friday by a 2-1 panel of the Ninth Circuit. As I detailed in a post last weekPeruta requires that the exercise of the Second Amendment right to carry a licensed firearm for lawful self-defense be considered “good cause” under the California statute providing for the issuance of concealed carry permits.

The press release is scrupulously silent about the possibility of filing a petition for a writ of certiorari. The deadline for filing such a petition is 90 days from the entry of judgment, which was February 14 in the Peruta case. Supreme Court Rule 13.1

As the press release notes, a federal Circuit Court has the authority to conduct an en banc rehearing sua sponte. According to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, Rule 35(a): “A majority of the circuit judges who are in regular active service and who are not disqualified may order that an appeal or other proceeding be heard or reheard by the court of appeals en banc.” For the Ninth Circuit to vote on a rehearing would require a judge to call for a vote. F.R.A.P. Rule 35(f).

Assuming that the San Diego Sheriff does not file a petition for a writ of certiorari, the U.S. Supreme Court still has an available case to consider right to carry. Drake v. Jerejian is an appeal from a Third Circuit decision upholding New Jersey’s carry licensing system, under which almost no-one is ever issued in a permit. (Scotusblog docket for the case is here.) Several amicus briefs were filed in support of the petition, including one written by Wyoming Attorney General Michael and joined by the Attorneys General of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia. Lead attorney in the Drake case is Alan Gura, winner of District of Columbia v. Heller.

Assuming that there is no certiorari petition in Peruta, and no sua sponte en banc, things will continue as usual in the California counties that were already issuing carry permits in compliance with the principles that the Second Amendment includes the right to bear arms. Other counties–such as Los Angeles, Orange, and San Francisco–will have to follow San Diego’s lead and begin issuing permits to ordinary, law-abiding citizens who pass the requisite background checks and safety training requirements.

Hawaii is the only one of the nine states in the Ninth Circuit where the right to bear arms is almost universally denied. Open carry is illegal. As for concealed carry, Hawaii Revised Stats. §134-9  provides for issuance of permits “In an exceptional case, when an applicant shows reason to fear injury to the applicant’s person or property…. Where the urgency or the need has been sufficiently indicated….”

Along with New Jersey, Hawaii is in practice one of the two “no issue” states. (Permit issuance in Delaware, New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island varies a lot depending on the locality. Maryland’s permits are state-issued and highly restrictive, but in practice are at least issued more often than in Hawaii and NJ.)

The simplest way for Hawaii to fix the problem would be to excise four words from the statute: “In an exceptional case.” Then the statute could be read so that need to carry for ordinary protection against ordinary crime could be construed as a sufficient basis for a permit. Alternatively, the Hawaii Supreme Court could apply a narrowing construction to the statutory language, bringing it into line with the requirements of the U.S. Constitution. There are many examples of state Supreme Courts construing  state statutes so as to save those statutes from violating the First Amendment or other constitutional provisions. A Hawaii court might point out that in other states, typically less than 5-10 percent of the population obtains a permit, and this is “exceptional” enough. The requirement for “urgency OR need” could be met by the ordinary need to have the ability to defend oneself in an emergency.

The Ninth Circuit also includes Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. It looks like the right to bear arms may be restored there as well.

David Kopel is Research Director, Independence Institute, Denver, Colorado; Associate Policy Analyst, Cato Institute, Washington, D.C; and Adjunct professor of advanced constitutional law, Denver University, Sturm College of Law. He is author of 15 books and 90 scholarly journal articles.
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