AP Photo/Martha Irvine

New Year, Same Old Ninth Circuit

My wife has watched way too many sappy Christmas rom-coms over the holiday break. It’s one of her guilty pleasures, even though she knows from the get-go how the story is going to play out. Girl meets guy under improbable circumstances, there’s immediate friction with an undercurrent of attraction, they get together, there’s a huge blowup, and yet they manage to reconcile and live happily ever after. The characters and the locations may change, but the story is basically always the same.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is like the Hallmark Channel of the judicial system, at least when it comes to gun control fans. No matter what law is being challenged or how egregiously it violates our Second Amendment rights, lawsuits in the Ninth Circuit seem to follow the same script: gun owners sue, a judge agrees that the law is likely to be unconstitutional and grants an injunction, only to have it stayed and eventually overturned. Sometimes we get a plot twist and a three-judge panel will uphold the injunction, but inevitably that decision is overruled by an en banc review. No matter how improbable or untenable the decision may be, anti-gunners are assured of a happy ending in the Ninth.

Not once in the fifteen years since the Heller decision was handed down has the Ninth Circuit ultimately concluded that a gun control law goes too far and abridges a fundamental right, and though it’s still fairly early the appellate court looks to be keeping that streak alive by allowing California’s new “gun-free zones” to take effect today after a rare Saturday ruling to grant an administrative stay of Judge Cormac Carney’s injunction halting enforcement of the new bans in supposedly sensitive places… including virtually every publically accessible business that doesn’t specifically post signage welcoming concealed carry holders.

State Attorney General Rob Bonta had sought an administrative stay of the lower court’s ruling, arguing that it would allow dangerous weapons in places where children and families congregate. By granting Bonta’s motion, the 9th Circuit judges have put the district court’s injunction on pause while a separate panel of judges weighs an appeal by the state.
Gov. Gavin Newsom celebrated the ruling in a statement posted to social media Saturday night.
“Californians overwhelmingly support efforts to ensure that places like hospitals, libraries and children’s playgrounds remain safe and free from guns,” Newsom said.

Despite Newsom’s contention that the stay only keeps the status quo in place, the fact is that the vast majority of these “gun-free zones” aren’t longstanding, and weren’t even in place until now. They’re artifacts of SB 2, and before today it was perfectly legal for concealed carry holders to carry for self-defense and the defense of others in these locations unless the private property owner specifically posted signage to the contrary. And as the Firearms Policy Coalition pointed out in response to Newsom, it doesn’t matter how many Californians support these restrictions, because they trample on a fundamental civil right.

The administrative stay doesn’t guarantee that a Ninth Circuit panel will block Carney’s injunction, but it’s hard to ignore the feeling that we’ve seen this story many times before and we know how this is gonna play out… at least until the Supreme Court gets to write the final scene. It may be a happy new year for California’s civil-rights deniers, but it’s another day of frustration for those Californians trying to stay safe and hoping to exercise their fundamental right to bear arms for their defense.

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