California’s Ban on Guns in Most Public Places Is Blocked Again

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The case centers on Senate Bill 2, a state law that sets several restrictions on gun ownership, most notably a ban on firearms in a long list of public places.

Since the ban was introduced, there has been a lot of back and forth over whether the law, which took effect on Jan. 1, could be enforced. After concealed-carry permit holders and other gun-rights organizations sued the state, arguing that the law was unconstitutional, Judge Cormac J. Carney of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California blocked enforcement of the law, on Dec. 20.

Judge Carney said at the time that the ban would unconstitutionally “deprive” citizens of their right to bear arms. He granted a preliminary injunction on the law, saying it was “repugnant to the Second Amendment, and openly defiant of the Supreme Court.”

Just last weekend, on Dec. 30, a panel of judges at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit put the injunction on hold, clearing the way for the law to take effect. But on Saturday, a different set of Ninth Circuit judges dissolved that ruling, reinstating the lower court’s injunction.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, Democrat of California, signed Senate Bill 2 into law shortly after it was introduced in September.

Under the law, guns are banned in public places, which are divided into 26 categories with various locations, including playgrounds, public transportation, stadiums, amusement parks and museums.

In addition, the law bars people from carrying firearms on the grounds of private businesses unless there is clear signage indicating that guns are allowed. It also sets the minimum age for obtaining a gun license at 21 and adds more requirements for gun safety training to receive a new license.

Mr. Newsom had hailed the earlier appeals court ruling that let Senate Bill 2 take effect, saying it would “allow our common-sense gun laws to remain in place while we appeal the district court’s dangerous ruling.”

The bill was part of a wave of legislation on gun control that took place after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen to strike down a New York law that had strictly limited the carrying of guns outside homes. The Supreme Court drastically shifted the standard for restrictions on firearms with that decision, handed down in 2022.

Several states have since sought to restrict the carrying of firearms. New York, for instance, passed a law to prevent people from carrying guns in “sensitive locations” such as Times Square, sports venues and houses of worship as well as on public transit. The law has created confusion and generated numerous lawsuits.

Litigation over the constitutionality of California’s ban will continue, with arguments set for April.

Proponents of the law argue that it is constitutional and that it will keep Californians safe. California’s attorney general, Rob Bonta, a Democrat, has argued that “more guns in more sensitive places makes the public less safe.”

But critics say the ban is too broad, applying to too many places in the state. “For decades, people with a license to carry in public have been able to carry in all of these places,” C.D. Michel, a general counsel for California Rifle & Pistol Association, said after the December appeals court ruling.

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