CalGuns Foundation Sues LA County Sheriff Over Carry Policy

The CalGuns Foundation filed suit yesterday in Los Angeles Superior Court against LA County Sheriff Lee Baca, the LA Sheriff’s Department, and LA County challenging the sheriff’s ban on accepting and processing carry licenses for city residents.

From their release:


March 9, 2012 – San Carlos, CA

Continuing its Carry License Sunshine and Compliance Initiative, The Calguns Foundation (CGF) has filed a lawsuit today in Los Angeles Superior Court against Los Angeles Sheriff Leroy “Lee” Baca, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and Los Angeles County. The case, entitled Jennifer Lu, et al. v. County of Los Angeles, et al., challenges the Sheriff’s ban on accepting and processing applications for carry licenses submitted by city residents.

The Calguns Foundation is joined in the lawsuit, by three individual plaintiffs.

“Sheriff Baca made the unfortunate decision to repeat historical failure,” noted GF Chairman Gene Hoffman. “Apparently, the Sheriff and County do not feel bound to follow the precedent they set when the California Court of Appeals ruled against them in 1976. We look forward to refreshing their memory.”

In the case of Salute v. Pitchess, the Court held that “[i]t is the duty of the sheriff to make . . . an investigation and determination, on an individual basis, on every application” for a handgun carry license. Then-Los Angeles Sheriff Peter Pitchess had “a fixed policy of not granting applications . . . except in a limited number of cases.”

California requires that people who desire to carry a handgun for self defense be licensed by the sheriff of the county in which they reside, or, at the applicants’ option, they can apply to their city’s chief of police. However, sheriffs cannot require applicants to first apply to and be denied by a city’s chief of police as a prerequisite to application.

“The State of California very intentionally established a standardized carry license framework: if you’re a sheriff, you have a duty to administer the carry license program for all residents of your county,” clarified Brandon Combs, an officer of CGF and director of the Carry License Initiative. “Sheriff Baca’s intent in enforcing these unlawful regulations is quite clear: make it as difficult as possible for law-abiding residents of Los Angeles County to defend their lives and those of their families. Not only does he treat some deserving applicants differently than others, he uses the rejections by cities’ chiefs of police – that his policy requires – as evidence against the applicants when they apply to him.”

“Jennifer Lu and the other plaintiffs have every reason to desire a handgun carry license, not the least of which is that it is their fundamental right under the Constitution as Federal courts in both West Virginia and Maryland ruled earlier this week,” said Jason Davis, attorney for the plaintiffs. “Sheriff Baca is circumventing state and constitutional law, and we’re confident that this case will bear that out.”

A copy of the complaint and case filings can be downloaded at

CalGuns Foundation’s Strategy For Carry In California

Gene Hoffman of the CalGuns Foundation is a really smart guy and it shows in the methodical strategy to win handgun carry for all in California that he has outlined below. I believe it was Gene who said last September at the 2010 Gun Rights Policy Conference, “we lost our gun rights one step at a time and we will have to win them back on step at a time.”

As to why anyone not living in California should even care, one-eighth of all Americans live in the Golden State. They have 53 Representatives in Congress. What begins there often ends up in the rest of the United States over time. If Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) had her way concealed carry laws in the rest of the U.S. would look like those in California.

As I read around the web, I see a lot of confusion and lack of understanding about what CGF is up to to clean up and sanitize carrying a firearm in urban California.

I want to outline the strategy a bit as there have been enough public revelations to make it easy to help outline what’s going on.

The way we see the carry problem here is that there are big issues and little issues that can be resolved both before and after a SCOTUS carry case.

Big Issue

The big issues are the Good Cause and Good Moral Character requirements of California law. Also, we’re taking the narrowest and strongest view of carry which is that it will be heavily influenced by governments’ ability to place time place and manner restrictions on it so long as loaded carry of some sort is allowed all to all non prohibiteds. That’s why we filed Sykes which became Richards v. Prieto. That’s also why SAF also filed, Palmer v. DC, Bateman v. Perdue (NC), Higtower v. Boston, Muller v. Maenza (NJ), Woolard v. Sheridan (MD), and Moore v. Madigan (IL). The whole point was to get SCOTUS to confirm there is a right to carry and may issue/discretionary laws are a prior restraint on the right to carry. Williams and Masciandaro are criminal actions that moved faster and may get us a SCOTUS carry case faster. We are currently cautiously optimistic that we’ll get a a carry case decision from SCOTUS by 6/30/2012, but we’re pretty confident that if that date isn’t hit, it would certainly be complete by 6/30/2013.

Pre SCOTUS Clean Up – The Sunshine Initiative

1. The clean up of California can start now – even before we win the big issue. Amongst the things that need to be fixed are Sheriffs with no policy, Sheriffs who force you to waste money by (having insurance, getting a doctor’s note, making you apply to a PD who will absolutely turn you down first, etc.) This effort can be seen by SF Sheriff’s Office finally issuing a (bad) policy and is exemplified by Rossow v. Merced.

2. Also, some sheriffs tend to be far more lenient on good cause statements from people they “know” for whatever reason. As such we can force a lot of sheriffs to head toward shall issue now (while we wait on SCOTUS) with cases like Scocca in Santa Clara that rely on Guillory v. Gates. This was why we sued Ventura for not disclosing their good cause statements.

3. Further, non California residents really have no way to carry in California. That’s why we filed Peterson v. Denver County Sheriff of the Week. We can prove the issue in the 10th Circuit (and get Californian’s the ability to carry in Denver) and then re-import that decision.

4. California’s license is pretty darn clean. Even 18 year olds can get it. However, we’re watching NRA’s handgun purchase and carry cases in Texas because we’ll want to import those wins here too.

All of this means that, while we wait, more people get permits, more counties get closer to shall issue, and when SCOTUS hits, we can quickly remove all the silly roadblocks to getting permits once they’re clearly our right – in many cases because we already have removed unlawful procedures in most of the California counties.

Post SCOTUS clean up.

1. Hold outs. We’ll have a few. However, we should have fresh case law to prove that much of what they do is unlawful. Add that to the Ezell standard that denial of 2A rights is irreparable harm and we’ll choose one or two counties to make examples of with TROs and PIs.

2. Too slow. Some counties will move too slowly – or are already too slow. Part of the plan with point 1, is to address that. Some time is allowed to complete the background checks, but after the initial crush of applicants 30-60 days is more than enough to process licenses.

3. Too expensive. Many gun owners can’t afford the license. Government is going to have to make accommodations for them. Our initial license is expensive. It’s ongoing maintenance is actually pretty cheap.

4. Other stuff. Psych evals will be killed by inference from a SCOTUS decision but we may have to pick on some issuer. More 42 USC 1988 fees for the attorneys!

A couple additional notes.

1. Licensed carry may be the bare minimum. Just as those of us closely watching Heller got a lot wider decision than we were expecting around carry, who knows how wide SCOTUS’ carry decision will be. We’re asking for the narrowest that gives us a real right because it’s prudent. If we get more on the first bite, well… Things above may be stated too conservatively.

2. CGF has focused on Sheriffs because they can’t weasel out like a PD can/could. However, that means in the future (and even now) sometimes the PD you live in could be a better option. We expect competition based on customer service between sheriffs and PD’s to pop up after SCOTUS. That’s the flip side of our relatively expensive initial permit – it’s a decent revenue source for cash strapped agencies.

I’m sure there is something I’ve forgotten, but I hope this clarifies what we’re up to a bit. There is nothing truly proprietary here – it’s just the best way to go about making life easy for CA gun owners who want to carry a firearm. There are a couple of additional items/clean ups that I’ve not talked about as we need to hold those back until we file them, but suffice it to say that there is a plan and that it should be relatively easy for all who want to carry – hopefully starting July 4, 2012.

I expect the biggest problem to be the lines. I can already tell you that BoF is impressed at what we’ve done in a couple of counties already based on their “carry applications pending” stats.

I certainly hope Gene is correct that the biggest problem will be the lines!