Federal judge rules against Calif. gun advocates

May 16, 2011 - 8:30 PM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A federal judge ruled Monday there is no constitutional right to carry a hidden gun in public — a decision that dealt a setback to gun-rights advocates who had challenged how much discretion California law enforcement officials have in issuing concealed weapons permits.

U.S. District Court Judge Morrison England Jr. in Sacramento supported a policy by Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto that says applicants must have a reason, such as a safety threat, to legally carry a concealed weapon in his county northwest of Sacramento.

Prieto was sued by opponents claiming sheriffs, who issue most concealed weapons permits, must give the documents to any applicant as long as they are not mentally ill, do not have a criminal background and complete a training course.

England signed the ruling Friday and it filed in court on Monday.

Gun rights groups have filed similar lawsuits in Maryland, Massachusetts and New York, but Alan Gura of Alexandria, Va., an attorney for the gun groups, said none of the cases have been resolved.

Gura filed a notice Monday saying the groups will appeal Judge England's decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Gura had argued that Prieto's policy gives the sheriff arbitrary discretion over a fundamental constitutional right to bear arms.

England countered that California law currently lets gun owners carry an unloaded weapon so it can be quickly loaded and used in self-defense if needed.

As a result, "Yolo County's policy does not substantially burden plaintiffs' right to bear and keep arms," England wrote in his 16-page decision.

Meanwhile, the California state Assembly approved a bill Monday by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, which would ban openly carrying unloaded handguns in public. Portantino introduced the measure after some gun rights activists carried unloaded weapons in public as a political statement.

The bill, AB144, now moves to the state Senate.