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San Francisco is not in compliance with Supreme Court order on concealed carry as just 1 permit issued in a year

By Sarah May
|
March 17, 2023

Despite a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that significantly broadened the right of citizens to possess and carry handguns for self-defense, the city of San Francisco has continued to drag its feet in terms of processing applications filed by residents for the permits to which they are entitled, as the Wall Street Journal reports.

Turning what appears to be something of a blind eye to the high court's summer ruling in the case of New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, San Francisco city officials have issued a grand total of one permit in the intervening months, despite having been flooded with applications.

Supreme Court sea-change

The Supreme Court's decision in the Bruen case was viewed by many as a watershed moment in Second Amendment jurisprudence in that it struck down a New York statute that required those seeking to obtain a concealed-carry permit to prove “proper cause” and “good moral character,” as the WSJ noted at the time.

Specifically, the panel declared that the Constitution protects the right of individuals to carry a handgun for self-defense and that any restrictions on that right imposed by the states must be in keeping with documented and demonstrable historical standards and traditions.

In its majority opinion, the high court stated that the Second Amendment's right to keep and bear arms has the same status as all other constitutional rights and should not be held hostage to a different set of standards for its exercise.

“We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officials some special need. That is not how the First Amendment works when it comes to unpopular speech or the free exercise of religion. It is not how the Sixth Amendment works when it comes to a defendant's right to confront the witnesses against him. And it is not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to public carry for self-defense,” the opinion explained.

Foot-dragging in San Francisco

Pursuant to the broader interpretation of the Second Amendment yielded by Bruen, municipalities – including San Francisco – have been deluged in recent months with applications from citizens interested in exercising their constitutional right to carry.

However, whereas many cities have made the necessary adjustments and begun granting permit requests, the sheriff's office and the police department in the Golden Gate City have evinced a reluctance to do the same, issuing just a single permit since June of last year.

A spokeswoman for the city's police department told the WSJ that the agency “has been carefully undertaking great and reasonable efforts to expeditiously administrate a legal procedure” to process and approve applications.

Tara Moriarty of the San Francisco Sheriff's Office attempted to explain the delay by saying, “We have to be very thorough in our vetting process.”

Frustrations mount

As the WSJ notes, the administrative logjam – whether intentional or not – is getting out of hand in the opinion of those who simply wish to engage in conduct the Bruen ruling affirmed is lawful.

Private investigator Andrew Solow told the outlet that he applied for his permit seven months ago so that he could have additional peace of mind when traveling into dangerous neighborhoods for work.

To date, his permit has not been approved, a scenario he struggles to comprehend.

“That's an obscenely long amount of time – it's ludicrous. I'm a licensed investigator,” Solow emphasized.

Facing the music

Just as San Francisco has slow-rolled its acceptance of the new legal landscape, which was formally acknowledged by no less than California Attorney General Rob Bonta, who issued a “legal alert” last year stating that agencies “may no longer require a demonstration of 'good cause' in order to obtain a concealed carry permit,” several other states have attempted their own workarounds, legislatively in some cases.

However, despite their efforts to impose a different set of restrictions in the wake of Bruen, the states of New York and New Jersey have already faced judicial rebuke due to the Supreme Court's pivotal ruling declaring such limits unconstitutional absent a particular showing of historical standards, which advocates in those jurisdictions have not successfully made.

Ruling against certain aspects of New Jersey's attempt to rewrite its gun laws in the wake of Bruen, Judge Renee Marie Bumb stated, “At some point on the line, a constitutional right becomes so burdensome or unwieldy to exercise that is, in effect, no longer a constitutional right.”

Commenting on New York's effort to skirt Bruen in its own way, South Texas College of Law professor Josh Black opined that while the Supreme Court has indicated the need for its holding in that case to “work its way through the system,” lower courts – and, by extension, officials such as those in San Francisco – “should be very mindful that they can't just sort of ignore it; they have to sort of grapple with its decision.” As such, indefinite delays on permit requests properly made are unlikely to remain tenable for much longer.