California is on the verge of a dramatic change in gun rights. On Feb. 13 the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit made an extraordinary ruling on a citizen's right to carry a gun.
A three-judge panel ruled that citizens who are not otherwise prohibited from owning firearms could not be denied the right to carry a firearm in public for the sole purpose of lawful self-defense.
San Diego County was sued by Edward Peruta and others over its policy for issuing concealed carry permits. As with every county in the state, one of the requirements for receiving a permit is that a person must have "good cause."
"Good cause" has been considered to be "a set of circumstances that distinguish the applicant from the mainstream and causes him or her to be placed in harm's way." The application of that criterion is very subjective and leaves it up to local law enforcement officials to decide who is really in danger.
The decision is well over a hundred pages and thoroughly addresses the historical meaning and application of the Second Amendment. In the end the Court said that law-abiding citizens couldn't be denied the right to carry a gun in public for self-defense.
Maybe you are cheering! Maybe you are fearing.... It's too soon to do either.
While the San Diego County Sheriff declined to take further action, State Attorney General Kamala Harris, the California Police Chiefs Association and two national gun-control groups have stepped in and petitioned for a rehearing. The mandate has been stayed and they will get another day in court.
The state and gun control activists think we are safer with more government regulation and restriction of guns in public places. But as we continue to pile more and more regulation of ammunition and guns on law-abiding citizens, are we actually safer from gun violence?
My family had a brush with the most ironic example of this folly. On Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2009, my oldest daughter was on base at Ft. Hood, Texas. She was taking care of some administrative business in preparation to go overseas. It ended up being an uneventful day for her.
But the next afternoon, Nov. 5, Nidal Hasan opened fire inside the Soldier Readiness Processing Center, killing one civilian and 12 Army personnel. Thirty-one soldiers and another civilian were wounded.
Regardless of their high level of training and competency, soldiers were prohibited from carrying weapons on base. And they complied. Like my daughter the day before, everyone was unarmed and vulnerable.
Hasan was subject to the same prohibition. He did not comply and I can only be thankful my daughter was on base Wednesday, not Thursday.
Who knows how differently that incident would have ended if the victims would have been armed that day. That is what Peruta's fight is all about.
Life is the most essential human right. Lawful self-defense is an obvious corollary. And in that context, the Ninth Circuit agreed that law-abiding citizens have the right to bear arms even if it is only to be prepared to defend that intrinsic human right.
There is no law that will stop criminals from carrying guns in public. There is no regulation that will suppress a madman's rage. So when Kamala Harris makes it her mission to keep guns out of public places, it is the law-abiding citizen who is left exposed and defenseless.
I hope the Ninth Circuit's decision stands. But, of course, that won't be the end of it. Gun-control interests are making it clear that they will take their case to the Supreme Court if necessary.
Edward Peruta and his co-plaintiffs have come this far and I'm sure they are willing to continue their legal action. We should all be grateful for their commitment to fight for our right to life.
Ric Llewellyn is a community columnist whose work appears in The Californian's Local section every third Thursday. Email him at llewellyn.californian@ gmail.com. These are Llewellyn's opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian.