A set of gun holsters on sale at a Virginia gun store in January 2023
A set of gun holsters on sale at a Virginia gun store in January 2023 / Stephen Gutowski

Gun-Rights Group Sues California Over Non-Resident Carry Rights

Visitors to the Golden State may have an avenue to lawfully carry a firearm during their trip if gun-rights advocates have their way.

The Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) filed a new federal lawsuit against California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D.) on Thursday. The suit alleges that the state’s residency requirement for gun carry permit applicants, along with its refusal to recognize the validity of permits issued by other states, acts as an unconstitutional total ban on the right to bear arms for non-residents.

“Individuals like Plaintiffs do not lose protection of their rights under the First Amendment’s speech or religion clauses when they cross state lines,” the complaint in Hoffman v. Bonta reads. “Nor do they lose their protections under the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. They likewise do not surrender their Second Amendment protected rights when they travel outside their home state.”

The suit enters a relatively new frontier for gun-rights advocates in their legal battle against a state with some of the strictest gun laws in the country. While most lawsuits dealing with gun carry to date have focused on restrictions placed on California residents, Thursday’s suit is just the second to challenge the state’s restrictions on out-of-state gun owners. If it successfully opens permit eligibility to non-residents, the suit could have massive impacts on the right to carry in practical terms. California consistently ranks as one of the country’s top 3 most visited states each year.

FPC filed the suit on behalf of three individual plaintiffs living in Pennsylvania, Idaho, and New Mexico. The suit claims that each currently has valid carry licenses in their respective home states, including two plaintiffs who formerly held California permits before moving yet can’t carry a firearm for self-defense when traveling to California.

“Plaintiffs are law-abiding, responsible citizens who wish to exercise their Second Amendment protected right to bear arms in public for self-defense while they visit California,” the complaint reads. “The State’s regulatory scheme, however, deprives Plaintiffs, and indeed all non-residents, of any path to do so.”

Only a handful of other states currently refuse to recognize permits from other states, or issue permits to non-residents. The suit argues that the Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen makes California’s position as a relative outlier an easy constitutional call.

Bruen has already established that the Second Amendment covers Plaintiffs’ proposed conduct here—carrying arms publicly for self-defense and other lawful purposes,” the complaint reads. “There is no well-established and representative historical tradition of prohibiting law-abiding citizens who cross state lines from bearing arms.”

“Whether California likes it or not, the United States Constitution requires the State to allow non-residents the ability to exercise their natural, fundamental right to bear arms,” Cody Wisniewski, a lawyer with FPC, said in a press release. “We again look forward to reminding California that it is not above the Constitution.”

The group asked the court to permanently strike down California’s residency requirement as unconstitutional and pay its legal fees.

Attorney General Bonta’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the suit.

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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