Gun Rights

Gun Rights Groups in California Sue to Take Away Some Gun Rights from "Retired Peace Officers"

Exemption for former police and other types of government officials in Gun-Free School Zone Act violates equal protection of the law for other licensed gun carriers, suit argues.

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Former cops often get special treatment when it comes to laws that restrict the free possession and carrying of weapons. A lawsuit, Garcia v. Beccera, now at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, is trying to change that in California when it comes to gun-free school zones.

dbking/Foter.com

Eleven Californians, teamed up with four gun rights organizations, are behind the suit, and they filed their opening brief this week at the Ninth Circuit after losing in August 2016 in a federal District Court.

The law that roused the plaintiff's ire is the California Gun-Free School Zone Act of 1995, as amended in 2015 by SB 707. The original law added special penalties against those with a gun in a school zone if they had no legal authority to carry a gun at all, but did not affect legally licensed carriers.

The 2015 change generally barred even licensed holders from having a gun in a school zone, but carved out a special exception for "honorably retired peace officers" with carry licenses. (That doesn't just mean what you might expect, municipal or county police officers, but also retired Fish and Game code enforcers, Department of Parks and Recreation or Forestry and Fire Protection agents who enforce the Public Resources Code, and former marshals "appointed by the Board of Directors of the California Exposition and State Fair" and "any honorably retired federal officer or agent of any federal law enforcement agency" (even if their actual job never involved carrying a gun).

The plaintiffs believe that special treatment violates their 14th Amendment rights to equal protection under the law. The District Court in August disagreed and granted the state a motion to, as this week's brief explains, "dismiss with prejudice, holding that although appellants and retired peace officers are similarly situated, the law survived rational basis scrutiny because it was rationally related to protect the safety of retired peace officers."

The plaintiffs disagree, as explained in the brief. The argument is basically that there is no rational basis to distinguish a lawfully licensed carry permit holder in California (getting one of those is often very difficult indeed, varying by specific local jurisdiction) and a "retired peace officer" relevant to the purposes of the law:

Indeed, arming one class of civilians over a similarly-situated class of civilians actively undermines the purpose of the Act, which is to eliminate access to guns on school grounds by anyone who is not (1) authorized to perform law enforcement activities or (2) granted approval to carry by the relevant school administrator.

While the District Court concluded, as summed up in the plaintiffs' brief, that "the distinction [between retired peace officers and other license holders] poses no Equal Protection concern so long as it rationally relates to any state interest [in this case, an interest in the safety of retired peace officers], even if that interest is inconsistent with the purpose of the law in which it appears," the plaintiffs disagree.

An emailed press release from the Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC), one of the four civil rights groups pursuing the case (along with the Firearms Policy Foundation, the CalGuns Foundation, and the Madison Society Foundation), explains the history of the 2015 law change:

The case…was filed after California enacted Senate Bill 707 (SB 707) in 2015, which was originally written to remove all civilian exemptions to the Gun-Free School Zone Act—including those for both retired "peace officers" and CCW licensees—but was later amended to re-include the exemption for retirees following significant lobbying by law enforcement associations and government employee special interest groups.

Craig DeLuz, an individual plaintiff in the case and a spokesperson for Firearms Policy Coalition, believes this case is about justice and equality. "As both a parent and a school board member, I believe it's important that our children see that the justice system does not allow the government to play favorites," DeLuz said.

The plaintiffs have some solid precedent in the Ninth Circuit that should make the case more likely to go their way, as the FPC sums up in their press release: Silveira v. Lockyer, a 2002 case based on a (failed) challenge to California's assault weapon ban, in which (among other issues) the Ninth Circuit decided that the "retired officers exception [to the Assault Weapons Control Act] arbitrarily and unreasonably affords a privilege to one group of individuals that is denied to others."

They plaintiffs' brief thus insists that the exemption in existing law is blatantly "for the improper purpose of favoring a politically powerful group and to disfavor a politically unpopular one."

The citizen plaintiff the case is named after, Ulises Garcia M.D., "obtained a carry license to protect himself and his family in response to multiple threats of violence from a former patient" according to the brief.

It may seem curious that gun rights groups should be fighting to extend a prohibition on gun carrying further than existing law. A victory in this case will not, after all, give Garcia or the other citizen plaintiffs their right to carry in school zones if they wish; it will merely take it away from retired peace officers who currently have it.

A clue as to the suing organizations' intention can be found on the website the Firearms Policy Foundation has established regarding the case: they hope victory in this suit will "help us ensure that anti-gun government union lobbyists think twice before supporting gun control bills and cutting shady back-room deals."

That is, by not allowing government agents to get around gun laws, perhaps they will be less inclined to politically support such restrictions in the future.

NEXT: A female czar (such as Neomi Rao) is a czaritsa (or a tsaritsa)

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  1. I like it. Fuck the police.
    Also, first.

    1. Howdy, DenverJ. Hope you are well this evening.

    2. Fuck the police. Second.

    3. Yeah, trying to fix something that is not a problem. Sounds like California.

  2. This is an interesting lawsuit. Usually, gun rights groups are infected with copsuckers. I wonder what kinds of discussions went in inside the walls of these organizations, before they dared to challenge the sanctity of our blue-clad templars with their gleaming amulets of office. There is no class more protected that they.

    1. [citation needed]
      As a member of several gun rights groups, I have seen many who think cops are great, but none that think they should have special privileges, especially the retired variety. There’s a world of difference, and you should not lump them together.

      1. I’m sorry, but as a matter of general observation I have to say that Chipper is right more often than not. Over the past several years, in fact, the Conservative Right has tended to move heavily pro-cop, a matter aggravated (in my opinion) by the fact that Black Lives Matter is transparently pro-thug, mendacious, and racist.

        I wish I didn’t think that was some of the point; to polarize feelings and allow local (usually Democrat) governments to manipulate people.

        1. Nope.

          Not sure what sort of circles you two operate in, but I’ve been an active member of multiple gun rights groups (NRA, GOA, Tennessee Firearms Association) along with various shooting clubs or private ranges from Florida, Montana, Arizona, Idaho, and Tennessee.

          While there is much respect for law enforcement there is also broad recognition that all their power derives from that of the people, and any time they claim special status above that of the citizens we move one step closer to a police state.

          On a less serious note there is also widespread lack of respect for the shooting abilities of average cops. Used to participate in casual competitions at a range down in SW Florida on Monday nights. Had cops from both Sarasota and Manatee Counties for a while, until they got fed up with all the ragging about their poor marksmanship and they stopped showing up. Word spread so fast people at other ranges were asking if it was true.

        2. You aren’t distinguishing between the two aspects. They are different, and all four combinations exist.

          One need also not look very far in deep conservative circles to find permit lovers, even may-issue lovers, who simply don’t think the little people can be trusted with guns.

          Invoking Chipper’s past record is no guarantee of overall correctness. Saying “right more often than not” is an admission that error is possible. Get over his perfection; it’s a sign of the very thing you denigrate, in the case the, shall we say, Chippersucking branch of reasonoids.

  3. Union by cop or teacher or refinery pipe welder remains forever the deep-rooted oaken pillar that plants Socialism firmly within the spreading but stringently halted lush valley, plain, and mountain of free markets vainly striving against the angst of emotionalized millions who embrace their gods and unions like family and fucking ballgames.

    This, my dear friends, is how you keep a corpse alive. Plant it eternally like a scarecrow in the midst of man’s struggles.

    Never a union will a free country survive by.

    1. I understood this. Let me repeat: I understood a post by AC. Either he is, for some unknown reason, sober, or I have had way too much.

      1. If you read him carefully, AC is quite often thought provoking. I may not agree with him, but he’s literate and interesting.

      2. Both. I, however, am just getting started. Expect more profanity.

    2. Fuck the AMA. That is all.

  4. It may seem curious that gun rights groups should be fighting to extend a prohibition on gun carrying further than existing law.

    Sometimes the only way to get rid of shitty law is to make sure that it is enforced equally on everyone.

    1. Yes. If Congress could no longer exempt themselves from the laws that they pass, I bet there’d be a lot less shitty laws.

      1. That assumes that Congress does not consist substantially of shitty lawyers.

        I suppose one could hope they were shitty ENOUGH that they would all get jailed…..

    2. Yep. Equal protection means either the privilege extends to all or none.

      Retired cop is not a form of nobility.

    3. That’s not very libertarian, or so I’m told when convenient.

  5. Four legs bad!

    Two legs good!

    1. Grab his fucking leg! Don’t worry about the number!

  6. It would be interesting to check instances of retired cops using carry handguns to defend themselves to see if any of the incidents actually involve threats based on their former service, or if the incidents turn out to involve random crime, like all of us face.

    1. Well, the last big news story about a former cop defending himself turned out to be a cop raging out in a movie theater and shooting someone who wouldn’t get off their phone.

      IMO, the jury shouldn’t have convicted.

  7. …they hope victory in this suit will “help us ensure that anti-gun government union lobbyists think twice before supporting gun control bills and cutting shady back-room deals.”

    You’ll have to take them to court. Over and over again.

  8. the law survived rational basis scrutiny because it was rationally related to protect the safety of retired peace officers.

    That “interest” would seem to be the epitome of providing unequal protection.

    But since they could have said that the presumed training and experience of peace officers makes the provision “rationally related” to the protection of schoolchildren, don’t expect that to matter in the end.

  9. The District Court in August disagreed and granted the state a motion to, as this week’s brief explains, “dismiss with prejudice, holding that although appellants and retired peace officers are similarly situated, the law survived rational basis scrutiny because it was rationally related to protect the safety of retired peace officers.”

    Is the District Court suggesting that the state of California has a greater interest in protecting the safety of retired peace officers than it does other citizens?

    1. There really aren’t enough laws….really!

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  11. The plaintiffs believe that special treatment violates their 14th Amendment rights to equal protection under the law. The District Court in August disagreed and granted the state a motion to, as this week’s brief explains, “dismiss with prejudice, holding that although appellants and retired peace officers are similarly situated, the law survived rational basis scrutiny because it was rationally related to protect the safety of retired peace officers.”

    Argh. “rational basis” scrutiny is the biggest atrocity ever perpetuated on our Constitutional system: “We can violate the Constitution if we can imagine a rational reason why violating it would be a good idea.” Fuck the entire judicial branch.

    1. My idea for a Constitutional Amendment: “There shall be no rational basis scrutiny nor presumption of Constutionality for any legislative act. All legislation shall be subject to strict scrutiny, and legislative acts shall be presumed Unconstitutional unless they can be proven Constitutional beyond a reasonable doubt.”

      1. If you start from the presumption that I hold all rights and freedoms from nature, then assume that I am innocent until proven guilty, then require a proof of guilt prior to applying force against me and reigning in some right or freedom of mine as punishment for guilt, then what you wrote can be the ONLY just way to understand a legal system based on rights and true justice (that is assuming anything beyond anarchy can be just… Not making that fight here… starting with some assumptions for the sake of argument).

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