The Golden State’s most populous county, a city within that county, and the state’s Attorney General have all found themselves in the crosshairs of gun-rights advocates over how they’ve handled carry permit applicants.
The California Rifle and Pistol Association (CRPA) and several other gun rights groups filed a lawsuit in federal court on Monday against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, La Verne Police Department, and California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D.). The suit alleges that each jurisdiction violated the rights of applicants by subjecting them to lengthy delays, charging exorbitant fees, and refusing to issue permits to non-residents.
“These practices and policies, some of which are enabled by state law, violate the Second and Fourteenth Amendments,” the complaint in CRPA v. LASD reads.
The lawsuit marks the latest move by gun-rights advocates in their fight against attempts by governments to evade the implications of the Supreme Court’s New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen ruling. Following that decision, which recognized a constitutional right to carry a firearm in public for self-defense, many jurisdictions now forced to issue carry permits to more residents have sought new ways to deter their use. Legal fights over broadly construed “sensitive places” restrictions have been a constant theme since Bruen was handed down in 2022. Now, challenges to newly-erected procedural hurdles for obtaining a permit are also gaining steam.
Chuck Michel, CRPA’s President and lead attorney, said that Monday’s lawsuit did not come without fair warning to the defendants.
“CRPA has let it be known that across all of California’s 58 counties, we will be vigilant and relentless in our efforts to ensure that post-Bruen CCW policies and procedures are in place and followed,” he said. “Today’s lawsuit could easily have been avoided if the Constitution was observed and the Bruen decision was followed.”
La Verne, California was one of those that maintained its new hurdles for gun-carry applicants in the face of warnings from the group. In March, The Reload reported the city’s decision to charge residents seeking a Carry Concealed Weapon (CCW) license $1,000. The La Verne Police Department also required a psychological screening for all first-time applicants looking for a two-year permit.
CRPA attorneys sent a letter to the city days after the application system was launched, urging them to reduce costs or face the group in court. The city subsequently made a modest reduction in its fee structure, which now totals around $936, but it was not enough to assuage the group’s concerns.
The complaint maintains that those required fees and the short renewal period are unconstitutionally excessive and out of step with the rest of the country.
“An Arizona CCW permit, for example, is good for five years and costs only $60. Thus, an Arizona permit costs roughly $12 a year, whereas a La Verne permit costs no less than $500 per year,” the complaint reads. “LVPD’s claimed processing costs are not only excessive, but not even comparable to similar cities’ fees. La Verne’s next-door neighbor Glendora charges $243 in total for processing (including livescan), plus the cost of the training course.”
Sam Gonzalez, acting chief of police for the city, declined The Reload‘s request for comment on the allegations, citing a department policy against making statements on pending litigation.
The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), Gun Owners of America (GOA), and Gun Owners of California (GOC) joined CRPA in filing the suit. They also allege that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has responded to the Bruen decision by limiting which county residents can apply for a carry permit to only those who reside in “contract cities” and unincorporated communities rather than all municipalities in the county. They also accused the Department of overseeing application processing times that frequently exceed 15 months, even though state law gives jurisdictions 120 days to approve or deny an application.
SAF founder Alan Gottlieb called the county’s delays and the city’s costly permitting system “inexcusable.”
“The process and costs involved seem deliberately designed to discourage people from exercising their constitutional right to bear arms,” he said.
Finally, the suit accuses California Attorney General Rob Bonta of unconstitutionally denying non-California residents a legal avenue to carry a firearm within the state’s borders. Because California does not issue permits to applicants who live outside the state, and since Bonta has not entered into any reciprocity agreements to recognize the licenses of other states, the complaint argues that California is violating the Second Amendment rights of non-residents.
“This is plainly unconstitutional under both Bruen and the precedent established in Obergefell v. Hodges,” the suit reads. “If California must honor a broad right to marry, which is unenumerated, then it must also honor the right to carry firearms, which is enumerated.”
Neither the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department nor Attorney General Bonta’s office responded to a request for comment.