FPC Targets California Non-Resident Carry Ban

by Vern Evans
Rob Bonta
California Attorney General Rob Bonta (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

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Among gun owners, California is infamous for having some of the most restrictive—and unconstitutional—gun laws on the books. And one by one they’re being challenged in court.

On Thursday, the Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) filed a lawsuit against California for the law that bans carry of firearms in the state by out-of-state residents. The case, Hoffman v. Bonta, filed on behalf of three out-of-state gun owners, is just one of several that FPC and the FPC Action Fund (FPCAC) are currently litigating in California on behalf of lawful gun owners.

“California’s unconstitutionally restrictive scheme provides no path for non-residents to carry a firearm lawfully in public at all,” the complaint states. “As a result, individuals like Plaintiffs Hoffman, Orrin and Sensiba, who have been issued carry licenses in their respective home states (and are allowed by other states that either do not require a license, or which offer reciprocity based upon the license(s) they hold), are barred from lawfully carrying a firearm in public for self-defense when they visit California.”

Cody J. Wisniewski, FPCAC president and FPC counsel, said the restriction is just one more example of California leaders believing they are above the law.

“California’s ban on firearm carry by non-residents is blatantly unconstitutional,” Wisniewski said in a press release announcing the lawsuit. “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. We again look forward to reminding California that it is not above the Constitution.”

The complaint, which was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, makes the point that rights covered under the Second Amendment are no less important than other rights enumerated in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

“This ban is unconstitutional,” the complaint stated. “Individuals like Plaintiffs do not lose protection of their rights under the First Amendment’s speech or religion clauses when they cross state lines. Nor do they lose their protection under the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. The likewise do not surrender their Second Amendment protected rights when they travel outside their home state.”

The California government, which has never accepted the 2022 Supreme Court Bruen ruling, will, of course, fight the lawsuit with thousands of dollars of taxpayer money—much of it paid by lawful gun owners who live in the state.

It’s evident that the FPC has a pretty strong case. In fact, in a 2023 case concerning a New Hampshire permit holder who was arrested in Massachusetts a district court judge ruled in favor of the man who had been arrested for carrying his firearm in Massachusetts.

“A law-abiding resident of New Hampshire who is exercising his constitutional right should not become a felon by exercising that right while he is traveling through Massachusetts merely because he has not obtained a Massachusetts license to carry, which now, under the holding of Bruen, has to be issued to an applicant unless the applicant is otherwise disqualified,” the judge wrote in his ruling in Commonwealth v. Dean. F. Donnell. “The court can think of no other constitutional right which a person loses simply by traveling beyond his home state’s border into another state continuing to exercise that right and instantaneously becomes a felon subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of incarceration.”

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