Bills of 2023 | Newsom signs bill to revise concealed-carry laws

Handguns on a display case at a gun shop in Fresno County. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local
Handguns on a display case at a gun shop in Fresno County. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local

Editor’s note: The Signal is presenting CalMatters’ wrap-up stories on some of the key bills that reached the governor’s desk at the close of the 2023 legislative session. Here’s the CalMatters summary of a bill that revises the state’s concealed-carry laws. 

By Nigel Duara  
CalMatters Writer 

Senate Bill 2 would maintain some of California’s concealed-carry weapons laws despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a similar New York law last year.  

Most states either issue concealed carry licenses upon request or do not require licenses at all. But in eight states before the ruling, including California, applicants were required to show a compelling need before being granted permission to carry a concealed firearm.  

The number of people applying for concealed carry permits in liberal coastal counties has sharply increased since the Supreme Court decision.  

The bill complies with the ruling by no longer requiring a compelling need. It sets limits on who can possess a firearm and where they can carry it. The law bans Californians from carrying firearms in various public places such as parks, stadiums and places of worship.  

The legislation, even before it was signed by the governor, was immediately challenged by gun rights groups in court.  

To prepare for the possibility that some parts of it will be overturned, its authors included a “severability clause,” meaning that if one or more elements of the bill are found unconstitutional in court, the rest of the bill will survive.   

Until Saturday, SB 2 had been blocked by a federal judge. Describing it as “repugnant to the Second Amendment,” federal Judge Cormac Carney temporarily blocked the law in late December. But on Saturday, a federal appeals court panel put a temporary hold on Carney’s ruling as the case makes its way through the courts. 

In response, Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement that “Californians overwhelmingly support efforts to ensure that places … remain safe and free from guns.” He also reiterated his proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution with gun control measures including raising the minimum age to own a gun and mandating universal background checks, posting Monday on X (formerly Twitter) that the amendment would “save lives across the country.” 

Who Supports It 

Along with Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta, gun control groups, unions and the leadership of some major Democratic cities support the legislation. Sen. Anthony Portantino, a Glendale Democrat, authored the bill. He introduced a similar bill in 2022, but it failed by one vote. 

Who Is Opposed 

Law enforcement associations, police unions, gun owner groups and the National Rifle Association, which argued that “the circumstance of a (person with a concealed carry permit) committing a crime is exceedingly rare.”  

Why It Matters   

Democrats in gun control states were sent reeling by the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision. The bill’s proposed limits on guns in “sensitive places,” such as courts and daycares, and the bill’s designation of “disqualified persons” who cannot own a gun, are the likeliest to face court challenges.   

The bill’s supporters argue that the Supreme Court decision didn’t do away with their ability to create gun control legislation — in fact, they argue, it was a “roadmap” to creating new gun control laws. The bill’s opponents worry that the legislation would create a patchwork of places across the state where gun owners cannot carry concealed weapons.    

The result, according to the California State Sheriffs’ Association’s letter of opposition, would be an “unnecessarily complicated, burdensome and overreaching licensing scheme that invites judicial scrutiny and seems destined to be struck down.”  

The Governor’s Call 

Newsom signed the bill Sept. 26 in an event with Bonta, Portantino and gun safety advocates. But referring to recent court rulings, the governor said that national action is necessary. He is pursuing a gun control amendment to the U.S. Constitution. “It’s great what we’re doing, but it may not be enough.”    

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