As part of its ongoing Carry License Compliance and Sunshine Initiative, the Calguns Foundation has filed a lawsuit in Merced County Superior Court challenging Merced County and its Sheriff’s firearm carry licensing policy for violating state law. Joining CGF are three individual plaintiffs who have been harmed by these policies, Michelle and Seth Rossow and James Clark. The plaintiffs are represented by Jason Davis of Mission Viejo and Donald Kilmer of San Jose.
California firearm carry license laws currently require applicants to have “good cause” and “good moral character.” The Calguns Foundation believes that those requirements are an unconstitutional prior restraint on the people’s right to bear arms, and is challenging those requirements in its Federal lawsuit over Yolo County’s carry licensing scheme in Richards v. Prieto, currently on appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
However, in Merced County, the Sheriff saddles applicants with additional forms, fees, and processes – even for individuals who meet the heightened good cause and moral character requirements – that, CGF alleges, violate state law.
“Sheriff Pazin has had ample time to create a policy that adheres to state law,” said Brandon Combs, a director of CGF and leader of the Initiative. Calguns Foundation first contacted Merced in October of 2010, when it discovered that the Sheriff had established an unlawful moratorium on carry license applications. The Sheriff subsequently lifted the moratorium, but has since refused to modify parts of his policy that CGF identified as unlawful.
“This case is definitely important to all Merced County residents who seek a carry license,” added CGF chairman Gene Hoffman. “What Sheriff Pazin has done is further burden a process that’s already costly and complex with unlawful requirements and fees. We are merely requesting the court mandate that the Sheriff’s policy be consistent with existing law.
In 1999, California enacted Assembly Bill 2022 to enforce standards upon the carry licensing process. “The Legislature, in AB 2022, sought to address the arbitrary and widely-varying abuses in carry license policies between different cities and counties in California,” said Jason Davis. “They made it clear that application requirements, forms, and fees are to be uniform throughout the state.”
“When we found out my wife was about to become a new mom,” said plaintiff Seth Rossow, “we knew we needed to take steps to protect our family when we weren’t in our home. We’ve had problems with meth users hiding at our ranch, and we watch the news like everybody else. In this day of budget cuts and reduced law enforcement patrols, it is important for us to be able to easily apply for our carry licenses.”
“The Rossow’s concerns for their safety are not unique,” added Don Kilmer. “California created a system that was designed so that applicants could focus on important issues, like training, rather than worry about a local form the Sheriff might or might not want them to fill out that day.”
“Ultimately, this case is about making carry license policies consistent with California law,” said Gene Hoffman. “We believe that we can accomplish this without 58 lawsuits, but if that’s what it requires, that’s what we are prepared to do.”
A downloadable copy of the complaint may be found at CGF’s downloads library. More information on Calguns Foundation’s Carry License Compliance and Sunshine Initiative and other Second Amendment-related litigation and educational efforts can be found at www.calgunsfoundation.org.