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State AG Alerts Local Law Enforcement To Omit “Good Cause” Requirement From CCW Permitting
On June 24, 2022, California Attorney General’s Office released a Legal Alert regarding the recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion in N.Y. State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. In that case, the Supreme Court concluded that the State of New York’s requirement that “proper cause” be demonstrated to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon in most public places violated the Second and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Moreover, the Court identified California as a state having an analogous law.
Under California Penal Code Sections 26150 and 26155, local law enforcement officials—sheriffs and chiefs of police—are authorized to issue licenses allowing license holders to “carry concealed a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person.” In counties where the population is less than 200,000, local officials are also authorized to issue licenses permitting open carry only in that jurisdiction (Penal Code Sections 26150(b)(2); 26155(b)(2)). These licenses, whether for concealed carry or open carry, exempt the holder from many generally applicable restrictions on the carrying of firearms in public. Local officials are only authorized to issue such licenses under the Penal Code upon proof that (1) “the applicant is of good moral character,” (2) “[g]ood cause exists for issuance of the license,” (3) the applicant is a resident of the relevant county or city (or has their principal place of business or employment in that county or city), and (4) the applicant has completed a course of training.
Pursuant to Bruen, however, the Attorney General has found that the “good cause” requirements in California Penal Code Sections 26150(a)(2) and 26155(a)(2) are now unconstitutional and unenforceable. Therefore, permitting agencies should no longer require a demonstration of “good cause” on concealed carry permits. The Attorney General instructs that local officials can and should continue to apply and enforce all other aspects of California law regarding public-carry licenses. In particular, the requirement that a public-carry license applicant provide proof of “good moral character” remains constitutional.
The investigation into whether an applicant satisfies the “good moral character” requirement should go beyond the determination of whether any “firearms prohibiting categories” apply, such as a mental health prohibition or prior felony conviction. As an example of a helpful model policy on assessing good moral character, the Attorney General pointed to Riverside County Sheriff’s’ Department’s Policy, which provides, “Legal judgments of good moral character can include consideration of honesty, trustworthiness, diligence, reliability, respect for the law, integrity, candor, discretion, observance of fiduciary duty, respect for the rights of others, absence of hatred and racism, financial stability, profession-specific criteria such as pledging to honor the constitution and uphold the law, and the absence of criminal conviction.”
The Attorney General advised that law enforcement agencies that issue licenses to carry firearms in public should consult with their own counsel, carefully review the decision in Bruen, and continue to protect public safety while complying with state law and the federal Constitution.
Office of the California Attorney General, Legal Alert No. OAG 2022-02, dated June 24, 2022.