Before the Bruen decision was handed down last June, Santa Clara County, California was home to just a handful of concealed carry holders; in large part because longtime sheriff Laurie Smith turned away most applicants… at least those not willing and able to offer up bribes to the sheriff and her top deputies.
Since Smith resigned just ahead of a guilty verdict on corruption charges in a civil trial and the Supreme Court struck down “may issue” permitting systems like the one in place in the county, things still haven’t appreciably improved, with Second Amendment attorney Kostas Moros reporting earlier this month that the new sheriff has approved almost three dozen applications, while nearly 900 more remain in the pipeline.
As of the last update I got in May, no permits had been issued. https://t.co/P00tOLmYYx
— Kostas Moros (@MorosKostas) August 16, 2023
While only a handful of Santa Clara County residents have received their carry permits, that hasn’t stopped one community in the county from trying to block concealed carry holders from exercising their right to bear arms in public. Earlier this year the Los Gatos City Council approved a sweeping ordinance establishing a host of new gun-free zones that was set to take effect on September 1st, but thanks to Second Amendment advocates those “sensitive places” are now on hold.
Michel and Associates, law firm representing the California Rifle & Pistol Association and the Second Amendment Foundation, recently sent a letter to the town saying the concealed carry ordinance approved this summer infringes on the constitutional rights of gun owners.
“Specifically, the ordinance makes it so that firearms are prohibited to be carried – even by those with a permit – in town property, public transit and places of worship,” the letter reads.
Town attorney Gabrielle Whelan said the council met in a closed session last week and voted to suspend enforcing the ordinance on those locations until anticipated litigation against the state is resolved.
“We’re taking it seriously,” Whelan said. “The town’s ordinance is modeled on pending state legislation.”
The ordinance was set to go into effect on Sept. 1. While the town is halting enforcement at places of worship, public transportation and some town property, the ordinance will be enforced at schools.
The town already took what Whelan called a conservative approach in defining sensitive places, naming only locations that have already been cited in existing case law to avoid litigation.
A truly conservative approach to the town’s carry laws would mean rejecting the legislature’s proposed prohibitions outright, not adopting them as the city’s own. And if Whelan and the city council were really that confident that these “sensitive places” would withstand a court challenge, suspending enforcement is a funny way of showing it.
The good news is that those few concealed carry holders in Santa Clara County can exercise their right to bear arms relatively unimpeded in Los Gatos, at least in the short term. But with lawmakers in Sacramento set to approve SB 2 and its own laundry list of prohibited places, gun owners across the state are soon going to be subjected to the same infringements that Los Gatos officials tried to implement at the local level.
I expect the first lawsuits challenging SB 2 to be filed almost as soon as Gavin Newsom signs the bill into law and Santa Clara County officials may still end up getting sued over the lengthy delays and the cost of acquiring a carry permit as well; given that it currently costs more than $1,000 dollars between training, a mandatory psychological evaluation, and a load of administrative fees before residents can access their right to bear arms in public. Even with Sheriff Smith ousted in disgrace, gun owners in Santa Clara County have a long way to go before officials truly take their Second Amendment rights seriously.