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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Days after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed more people to carry concealed weapons, California lawmakers on Tuesday moved to limit where firearms may be carried and who can have them, while struggling to stay within the high court’s ruling.
They aim to restrict concealed carry to those 21 and older; require applicants to disclose all prior arrests, criminal convictions and restraining or protective orders; require in-person interviews with the applicant and at least three character references; and allow sheriffs and police chiefs to consider applicants' public statements as they weigh if the individual is dangerous.
“We’re going to push the envelope, but we’re going to do it in a constitutional way,” said Democratic Sen. Anthony Portantino.
It’s the latest example of California, where Democrats hold sway, pushing back against recent decisions by conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices. On Monday, lawmakers advanced a gun control measure modeled after a recent high court ruling in a Texas abortion case, and adopted a ballot measure that would enshrine a right to abortion in the California Constitution.
The Supreme Court last week rejected a New York law requiring that people seeking a license to carry a gun in public demonstrate a particular need, such as a direct threat to their safety. California is among a half-dozen states with a similar requirement, and Attorney General Rob Bonta said the ruling renders that portion of California's law immediately unconstitutional.
But lawmakers won't act on the replacement legislation until August, after they return from a monthlong summer recess and make further amendments. And even then they won't seek to impose the new standards immediately, which would require a two-thirds vote, instead waiting to have the legislation take effect in January.
New York, meanwhile, plans a special session of its legislature Thursday to consider gun legislation that could also impose new requirements for a carry permit, perhaps as many as 20 hours of mandatory live-fire training, along with a substantial list of areas where carrying is prohibited.
The California legislation was advanced Tuesday by the Assembly Public Safety Committee on a 5-2 vote over the objections of gun owners rights advocates who said it goes too far and predicted that it, too, would be ruled unconstitutional.
“This amendment is not improving California’s concealed carry laws — it’s in defiance of this court opinion,” said Daniel Reid, the National Rifle Association's Western regional director. “We're seeing a complete redrafting of places where law-abiding citizens can carry in the state of California. It's an incredibly confusing patchwork.”
He said lawmakers are using a “shell game” to substitute new rules for the one outlawed by the Supreme Court.
The proposed legislation would bar concealed weapons from schools and universities, government and judicial buildings, medical facilities, public transportation, any place where alcohol is sold and consumed, public parks and playgrounds, and special events that require a permit.
No other state uses those kind of restrictions, said Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California.
“This bill will never become law," he said.
The proposal would allow anyone whose application is denied to receive a hearing before a Superior Court judge.
Applicants would be required to provide fingerprints each time they apply for a permit, regardless of whether they have previously submitted their fingerprints to the state Department of Justice, which opponents called redundant and designed to drive up the cost and bureaucracy of obtaining a license.
It also would require the applicant to be the licensed owner of the specific firearm for which they seek a license, which opponents said would make it more difficult for spouses to be licensed for weapons they jointly own, potentially putting them in legal jeopardy.
Bonta said the Supreme Court ruling doesn't undermine other requirements of California's law, including that those seeking to carry concealed weapons demonstrate “good moral character.”
Sheriffs and police chiefs are required to perform background checks before issuing permits. The applicant must have training in carrying a concealed weapon, must live or work in the city or county where they are seeking the permit, and the sheriff or police chief may require psychological testing.
California officials issued about 40,000 permits last year, down from more than 100,000 during the peak year of 2016, according to information newly posted on the state Department of Justice's website.
Orange County had by far the most, at more than 65,000, followed by Fresno and Sacramento counties with more than 45,000 permits. By contrast, Los Angeles County, with about a quarter of the state's population, issued about 3,600 permits, and San Francisco just 11.
But the database for some period also publicly disclosed the names and other identifying information on the state's permit holders, in what the California Rifle and Pistol Association called an “unconscionable breach” of confidential information.
Bonta's office said it was investigating the exposure of personal information, adding that "any unauthorized release of personal information is unacceptable.”