Supreme Court rebuffs challenge to California gun restrictions

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court for a second straight year refused on Monday to hear a challenge to California’s limits on carrying handguns in public, dealing another setback to gun rights proponents.

The court’s action underscored its continued reluctance to step into a national debate over gun control roiled by a series of mass shootings including the one at a Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11 people on Oct. 27. It has not taken up a major gun case since 2010.

The justices, declining to hear an appeal by two gun owners, on Monday left in place a November 2017 ruling by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding California’s restrictions.

California law generally bars people from carrying firearms outside the home but local sheriffs can issue permits to carry a concealed gun in public places if applicants show “good cause.” It is left up to individual sheriffs to determine what constitutes “good cause.”

The Supreme Court in June 2017 declined to hear a similar case challenging California’s policy toward carrying guns in public.

In the case acted upon on Monday, gun owners James Rothery and Andrea Hoffman – who wanted to carry their weapons in public – sued the state and Sacramento County in 2008, saying the process for granting permits for carrying a concealed handgun was “arbitrary and capricious” and violated their right to bear arms under the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment.

They also said the law violated their 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law.

Like the case turned away by the Supreme Court last year, this one was an appeal of a lower court decision upholding a local sheriff’s refusal to issue a permit.

In its landmark 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller ruling, the Supreme Court held for the first time that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to bear arms for self-defense in the home. In 2010, the court said that ruling applied nationwide.

The action Monday was the first on a gun rights issue since conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh, appointed by President Donald Trump, joined the court last month. In his previous role as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Kavanaugh backed expansive gun rights.

The court did not disclose how individual justices voted in the California case.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)