SAN FRANCISCO —Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris said Thursday that she would challenge a federal appeals court ruling that would require counties to give law-abiding residents permits to carry concealed guns.
Harris' announcement followed a decision last week by San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore, the named defendant in the case that triggered the ruling, not to appeal.
Unless overturned, the 2-1 ruling by a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals would end a stringent restriction on carrying handguns in the state's most populous counties. Most rural countries already allow permits if minimal requirements are met.
"Local law enforcement must be able to use their discretion to determine who can carry a concealed weapon," Harris said. "I will do everything possible to restore law enforcement's authority to protect public safety, and so today am calling on the court to review and reverse its decision."
Chuck Michel, a lawyer for the gun owners who challenged the restrictions, said he would oppose the state's intervention. Michel said San Diego County had repeatedly asked Harris to intervene earlier, and she had refused. He said Harris, who faces reelection, would face the wrath of gun owners.
"Gun owners vote, and they donate," Michel said. "After all the attacks that have come on gun owners in the last couple of years, that sleeping tiger is now wide awake. And they will let her know how they feel about this decision."
The 9th Circuit said the restrictions in urban regions violated the 2nd Amendment's guarantee of the right to bear arms because residents were denied permits unless they could show a specific need for them. The ruling did not alter requirements that permit applicants show good moral character and possess training in the use of handguns.
The court's decision stemmed from a change in state law in 2012 that took away the right of residents to carry unloaded guns in public, with ammunition carried separately. Before the ban was enacted, courts routinely upheld restrictions on carrying concealed weapons.
Gun owners argued that the ban, coupled with the restrictions on concealed weapons, made it impossible to defend themselves in public. They challenged the permit conditions for concealed weapons in San Diego County.
"We are not holding that the 2nd Amendment requires the states to permit concealed carry," Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain, a Reagan appointee, wrote for the panel. "But the 2nd Amendment does require that the states permit some form of carry for self-defense outside the home."
Sheriffs in Orange and Ventura counties have decided to comply with the ruling and loosen requirements, even though the court decision has yet to take effect.