A policy that allows the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department to decline a concealed firearms permit based on a resident’s immigration status is unenforceable, according to a federal judge’s ruling announced Friday.
Los Angeles-based U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson issued a permanent injunction against the sheriff’s department’s non-issuance policy in response to a lawsuit filed by civil rights groups last October, naming then-Sheriff Stan Sniff as a defendant.
“We’re delighted with the outcome of this case,” Second Amendment Foundation founder Alan Gottlieb said. “This isn’t our first experience with such a policy, and we’re happy to have had good partners in this challenge.”
The sheriff’s department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Gottlieb’s group was joined by the Calguns Foundation, the Firearms Policy Coalition, the Firearms Policy Foundation and the Madison Society Foundation in the lawsuit on behalf of Riverside County resident Arie Van Nieuwenhuyzen, who has been a permanent U.S. resident since 1983.
The businessman’s application for a concealed carry permit was rejected by the sheriff’s department based on his non-citizen status, according to the plaintiffs.
“Mr. Van Nieuwenhuyzen has been a productive, law-abiding member of his community for decades, and there is no good reason to discourage or deny someone of his background and standing the ability to apply for a carry license,” Gottlieb said.
The lawsuit cited constitutional guarantees under the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment in challenging the Sniff administration’s policy.
Pregerson agreed with the plaintiffs’ reasoning, saying there was no justification for a practice of denying a concealed weapon permit “to … non-U.S. citizens who are otherwise qualified, lawful permanent residents of the county, and who are not otherwise prohibited from owning firearms … under state law.”
“This coalition victory is important because it not only helps to restore access to the fundamental right to bear arms, it also sends a crystal-clear message to carry licensing authorities that the rights of the people can and will be enforced in our courts,” Firearms Policy Coalition President Brandon Combs said.
Sniff questioned the timing of the lawsuit last fall, noting that it was filed just weeks before the Nov. 6 election, during which Lt. Chad Bianco unseated his boss in the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
Bianco made expediting the processing of concealed carry permit applications a central theme in his campaign, and since taking office, his administration has moved to accelerate the vetting process for qualified applicants, offering an online portal to save residents time. The sheriff has also added to the number of facilities where people can complete firearms safety training required as part of the application process.
California operates under the “may issue” principal, which affords top law enforcement officials in cities and counties the discretion to authorize or deny concealed carry permits. Forty-one states have “shall issue” or no-permit-required laws, giving residents with no serious criminal history the ability to carry guns, according to the National Rifle Association.
California Penal Code section 26150 specifies the minimum requirements to qualify for a carrying a concealed weapon (CCW) permit. Applicants are required to undergo background checks, receive a minimum eight hours of firearms certification training and submit information showing “good cause” to possess a concealed pistol before their request will be considered.
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