Judges put new California law barring guns in many public places on hold again

Gov. Gavin Newsom speaking at a lectern
Gov. Gavin Newsom spoke last February in support of legislation barring gun permit holders from bringing their firearms into many public places. The law has been put on hold pending a federal court challenge.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

A new California law barring licensed gun holders from carrying their firearms in many public places has once again been blocked — meaning it cannot be enforced — as legal challenges proceed in federal court.

The law bars concealed-carry permit holders and those with open-carry permits in more rural parts of the state from carrying their firearms into spaces that California lawmakers deemed “sensitive.”

The prohibited places include anywhere that sells and serves liquor; on public transportation and in many parking lots; at public gatherings, special events, parks, playgrounds, stadiums, arenas, casinos, medical facilities, religious and financial institutions; and in any other private commercial spaces where the owners have not explicitly posted a sign allowing guns.


Challengers to the law argue the list is so long that it essentially precludes them from leaving their homes with their weapons and makes their permits worthless — and diminishes their ability to defend themselves in public, a right that they say is guaranteed under the 2nd Amendment. (People without permits, who are not party to the lawsuit, generally cannot carry firearms anywhere in public in California.)

A federal district judge halted major portions of the law from taking effect last month, calling it “repugnant” and unconstitutional. An administrative panel of judges in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals then stayed that judge’s ruling on Dec. 30, letting the law, known as Senate Bill 2, take effect as planned on Jan. 1.

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However, on Saturday, another 9th Circuit appellate panel issued its own order reversing the administrative panel and restoring the lower court’s judgment while the proceedings continue.

The latest order, issued by a court clerk without the names of the judges listed, puts the state law on ice once more as the case proceeds. The 9th Circuit appellate panel will be considering the state’s appeal, including during arguments in April.

A spokesperson in the office of Gov. Gavin Newsom called the latest decision “dangerous” in a statement, saying it “puts the lives of Californians on the line.”

“We won’t stop working to defend our decades of progress on gun safety in our state,” the spokesperson said.


Chuck Michel, an attorney for the gun holders suing the state over the law, applauded the ruling and said it preserves “the status quo” for responsible gun owners.

“Had this new law taken effect, it would reverse decades of allowing vetted and licensed [concealed-carry weapon] holders (but not the general public) to carry in places where the need for self-defense can be most acute,” Michel wrote in a statement.

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“So the politicians’ ploy to get around the 2nd Amendment has been stopped for now,” he said. “Now we will focus on stopping it for good.”

The legal battle is one of many playing out in courts across the country in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn. vs. Bruen in 2022.

In Bruen, the high court held that strict limits on concealed-carry permits in states such as New York and California amounted to unconstitutional restraints on people’s 2nd Amendment right to self-defense.

The court also held that gun laws that aren’t deeply rooted in American history, or analogous to some historical law, are generally unconstitutional. Some gun laws — like those that have traditionally barred guns in sensitive places such as schools and courtrooms — remained valid, the court noted.


Last year, California lawmakers passed SB 2 in response to the Bruen decision and several mass shootings, including in Half Moon Bay and Monterey Park. Lawmakers argued that the bill, sponsored by state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-Burbank), was permissible under the Bruen decision because it simply extended the list of places deemed sensitive under California law.

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Gun holders sued in response, and won a victory on Dec. 20 when U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney issued an injunction.

Carney, an appointee of President George W. Bush, wrote that SB 2’s “coverage is sweeping, repugnant to the Second Amendment, and openly defiant of the Supreme Court.” He said SB 2 clearly clashed with the Bruen decision, and an injunction blocking it was warranted because the gun holders were likely to win their case against the state and would suffer “irreparable harm” if they weren’t allowed to carry their firearms in the meantime.

California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta’s office appealed and asked for a stay to allow the state’s law to go into effect while the court case continued. An administrative panel of the 9th Circuit granted that stay, but now, with Saturday’s order, the law is once more blocked while the case proceeds.