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Court Ruling Upholds Right to Self-Defense

Last month, a federal court with a very liberal reputation made a surprising ruling – that government cannot unduly restrict a law-abiding Californian’s right to carry a concealed weapon in public. Anybody who believes in the plain meaning of the U.S. Constitution should applaud this ruling.

Unfortunately, California newspaper editorial boards such as the San Jose Mercury News disagree. They echo the arguments made by some that this ruling could create dangerous consequences for our state. I respect their concerns, but I believe the ruling will enhance safety instead.

The San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals simply said a law-abiding citizen’s right to bear arms for self-defense should be enough “good cause” for a local sheriff to grant a concealed-carry weapon permit.

This ruling came about because the San Diego Sheriff’s Department denied an independent journalist a concealed-carry permit because he could not show “good cause,” a term that is open to interpretation and subject to abuse. The journalist and others sued and the case ultimately wound up in the San Francisco court. It found that the department’s regulations for issuing a permit were so strict that it effectively eliminated the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms, particularly since state law also prohibits the open carrying of firearms in most circumstances.Interestingly enough, the sheriff decided not to appeal the ruling.

I agree that local officials should not be arbitrarily deciding the extent of our constitutional rights. The U.S. Constitution should be the sole judge. Some forget that the Second Amendment is a right, not a privilege granted by the state. The government can set basic ground rules to ensure that our rights do not violate the rights of others, but they cannot pick and choose which ones they would allow us to enjoy.

To be clear, the court’s ruling does not change existing laws that prohibit felons and the mentally ill from owning or carrying guns. California will continue to have some of the toughest gun control laws in the nation. But what the ruling does do is give people who have done nothing wrong an opportunity to better protect themselves and their families. Applicants will still need to pass a background check, pass a firearms safety course, and demonstrate good moral character before they receive a permit.

The ultimate solution to reducing gun violence is to take guns away from criminals, not deny the Second Amendment rights of the innocent. Our state must put a greater emphasis on screening the mentally ill and getting them the help they need. At the same time, we also need to give law enforcement the resources necessary to get guns out of the hands of criminals and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. These are some of the things that I have fought for during my time in the Legislature.

In addition, we have to deal with the fact that our society accepts gratuitous violence in the media as normal and okay. No approach to solving gun violence will work unless it includes self-reflection on how these depictions affect our young people. Parents and guardians have to do their part to teach children the difference between right and wrong. If we turn our attention to these solutions, we can make significant progress in curbing gun violence.

What we should not do is let fear be used as an excuse to chip away at a constitutional right. It is refreshing to see a court actually recognize that the Second Amendment has meaning. If this case winds up at the U.S. Supreme Court, I hope it will reach the same conclusion.

Assemblymember Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, represents the 12th Assembly District in the California Legislature, which includes portions of Stanislaus and San Joaquin Counties in the Central Valley. Olsen was a representative for Tuolumne and Calaveras Counties.