Friday, March 27, 2009

AB357: California Shall Issue Bill

Steve Knight, a CA Assemblyman representing Victorville, has proposed a bill which would remove the "good cause" requirement for obtaining a concealed carry weapons permit (CCW). This would allow CA to join the ranks of "Shall Issue" states (currently 37 out of the 48 states that allow concealed carry). The text of his bill can be found here.

Existing law authorizes the sheriff of a county, upon proof that the person applying is of good moral character, that good cause exists, and that the person applying satisfies any one of certain conditions, as specified, to issue a license for the person to carry a concealed handgun, as specified. This bill would delete the good cause requirement, and require the sheriff to issue the license if the other criteria described above are met.

The bill is currently in the Public Safety Committee for review. I wrote the following letter to each of the members of the committee.

I am writing to encourage you to support AB357 titled "An act to amend Section 12050 of the Penal Code, relating to firearms." This bill would remove the unnecessary, unfair and subjective requirement of showing "good cause" when applying for a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

The current requirement of showing "good cause" is unnecessary because the law already provides that the applicant must be "of good moral character" and "is not prohibited from possessing firearms". Both of these criteria allow the chief law enforcement officer to investigate the applicant and screen out those individuals who cannot be trusted to use their freedom responsibly. The requirement of showing "good cause" does nothing to reduce crime or increase public safety. Out of 48 states that allow concealed carry, 37 do not have such unnecessary restrictions. These "Shall Issue" states have some of the lowest crime rates in the country. According to the FBI, Right to Carry states had 24% less violent crime in 2007 than other states. AB357 would eliminate this unnecessary requirement and allow law enforcement to focus resources on keeping communities safe.

Furthermore, the requirement is unfair because it places the burden of proof upon law-abiding citizens to show that they have a special need to exercise a fundamental right of self-defense, which has been recognized for centuries. Despite the fact that the California Constitution acknowledges the rights of defense of life, protection of property, and pursuit of safety in its Section I, many officials do not consider such self-defense sufficient as "good cause". This means that people who may live in high-crime areas are unfairly deprived of the right to defend themselves away from their homes unless they have been personally attacked or threatened, in which case it is often too late. Yet statistics show that many attacks can be prevented when victims are armed. The US Justice Department found that 34% of felons were scared away by armed victims and another 40% avoided attacking altogether because they feared that the victim might be armed. AB357 would promote public safety by ensuring that the right of self-defense was equally available to all law-abiding citizens.

Finally, the subjective nature of the current law disadvantages those who reside in counties or cities where the chief law enforcement officer has unusually restrictive views about what constitutes "good cause". This places law enforcement in an unfortunate, adversarial relationship with those who are generally their strongest supporters. Furthermore, many crimes are prevented by holders of concealed carry licenses, often without a shot being fired, which greatly reduces the burden on law enforcement. AB357 would benefit both law enforcement and law-abiding citizens by removing the subjective, time-consuming process of reviewing "good cause statements" and restoring a co-operative relationship among those who are natural allies.

Historically, anti-concealed carry laws were enacted because everyone was presumed to have the right to carry weapons openly and only criminals were thought to have a need to conceal guns. However, we no longer live in the Wild West and many now realize the advantage of having a population where the criminals do not know who is armed. John Lott, in his book More Guns, Less Crime has definitively shown that crime rates go down dramatically when "Shall Issue" laws are passed. Please join Assemblyman Steve Knight in supporting AB357 and making California a "Shall Issue" state.

Here are the email addresses of the members of the Public Safety Committee:

Jose Solorio
Curt Hagman
Warren Furutani
Danny Gillmore
Jerry Hill
Fiona Ma
Nancy Skinner

You can also go here to send a comment to Steve Knight in support of his bill. Just look him up on the list and hit the comments link next to his name. The system will allow you to select the bill you want to comment about and check a box for support or oppose. I am sure that will help him win support for the bill.

If you live in a district represented by an assembly member not listed above, be sure to tell them you support the bill as well. Click on the "Find My District" button on the Assembly's web page.

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