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RIVERSIDE (CNS) - A Riverside County lawmaker today introduced legislation seeking to establish a uniform standard throughout California that makes self-defense a justifiable reason for a sheriff or police chief to grant a concealed handgun permit.
“It is our Constitutional right to defend ourselves,'' Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, said. “If a citizen passes the background check and completes the necessary safety training requirements, there should be no reason to deny them a concealed carry permit.''
Melendez's Assembly Bill 757 would place a clarifying provision in the California Penal Code stating that self-defense qualifies as “good cause'' for the issuance of permits to carry concealed firearms.
The assemblywoman said she finds it unacceptable that “personal beliefs of one person who doesn't believe in the Second Amendment'' should determine whether an applicant for a concealed carry permit is approved or denied.
“Equal protection under the law applies to more than just illegal immigrants and liberal college students,'' Melendez said. “The Constitution enumerates the right to own a gun; it is not a privilege only to be granted to a select few.''
California operates under the “may issue'' principal, which affords top law enforcement officials in individual counties the discretion to authorize or deny concealed carry permits. Forty-one states have “shall issue'' or no- permit-required laws, generally giving residents with no serious criminal history the ability to carry guns, according to the National Rifle Association.
In California, permit applicants are required to undergo background checks, receive firearms certification training and submit information showing good cause to possess a concealed pistol before their request will be considered.
The good cause criterion became the subject of a federal civil rights case, Peruta v. County of San Diego, four years ago. The plaintiffs challenged the county's alleged arbitrary handling of permit applications, some of which were denied because they cited self-defense as the only reason for wishing to possess a concealed handgun.
The plaintiffs initially prevailed following a hearing before a three- judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, the full court last summer overturned the previous ruling in an appeal filed by then- California Attorney General Kamala Harris. The case is now on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Our current system of issuing concealed carry permits is not equal,'' Melendez said. “It comes down to being lucky enough to live in a county where the sheriff believes in upholding the Second Amendment.''