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Attorney General Bonta Supports District Court Decision Upholding State and Local Governments’ Right to Create “Gun-Free Zones”

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta joined a coalition of 18 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the right of state and local governments to designate specific, sensitive public areas as “gun-free zones.” In the brief, the attorneys general urge the Fourth Circuit to uphold a district court decision maintaining Montgomery County, Maryland’s reasonable restrictions prohibiting the carrying of firearms in sensitive public places such as schools, libraries, places of worship, and hospitals, as well as a 100-foot buffer zone around these sensitive locations. The brief argues that the law is in line with a long tradition of constitutionally acceptable regulations designed to meet local governments and states’ responsibility to protect their residents from gun violence.

“Protecting the public from gun violence is a top priority for the California Department of Justice,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Our citizens should not have to live in fear of gun violence in their workplaces, schools, or places of worship. The fact is, more guns in more places makes us less safe and interferes with the ability of our citizens to exercise their constitutional rights. Under Bruen, the Supreme Court acknowledged that states and local governments have a right to enact reasonable restrictions to protect communities. We support and recognize state and local governments’ right to enact laws to maintain public safety, including constitutional gun regulations that respond to local needs and concerns.”

The attorneys general argue in the brief that the challenged provisions are consistent with a tradition of constitutionally acceptable regulations designed to meet local governments’ responsibility to protect their residents and the public safety of communities. These regulations, including the establishment of buffer zones around sensitive places, are common and a method of ensuring adequate protection and safety for locations that have become increasingly vulnerable to gun violence in recent years. Imposing location-based restrictions on carrying guns does not conflict with the Second Amendment, allowing states to have flexibility that they need to protect their communities.

Attorney General Bonta continues efforts to support and defend commonsense, constitutional gun laws that have been shown to save lives. Just last week, Attorney General Bonta filed a notice of appeal to the Ninth Circuit seeking to overturn a dangerous and misguided decision by a district court striking down California’s large-capacity magazine ban. In January 2023, Attorney General Bonta joined coalitions filing briefs in support of the state of New York’s gun safety laws, including a brief in support of New York’s reasonable restrictions on who may obtain a concealed carry permit and prohibitions on the carry of guns in sensitive places, and in support of New York’s regulation prohibiting carrying firearms in places of worship. In July 2023, Attorney General Bonta also joined a coalition of attorneys general in defense of New Jersey’s law protecting the public from gun violence in sensitive places.

Attorney General Bonta, with Governor Gavin Newsom and Senator Anthony Portantino, has advanced legislation to strengthen California’s existing concealed carry laws. Senate Bill 2 (SB 2), which was signed into law yesterday, is consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in New York Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, and would further protect the public safety of Californians by specifying who may obtain a CCW license, limiting the possession of firearms in certain sensitive locations, and advancing safety through stronger training requirements on the safe handling and storage of firearms. 

A copy of the brief is available here.