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By Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court decided Thursday that a San Diego restriction on carrying concealed guns in public for self-defense infringes on citizens’ Second Amendment rights.

In a 2-1 ruling, a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned San Diego County permit requirements because the court said they denied responsible, law-abiding citizens the right to carry concealed handguns in public for self-defense.

California generally prohibits carrying guns, whether loaded or not, in public locations.

But residents may apply for a license to carry a concealed weapon in the city or county where they live or work. To obtain licenses in San Diego County, residents must show “good moral character,” complete a training course and establish they have valid reasons for needing the gun.

The court said San Diego’s policy was too restrictive under the Second Amendment because it required applicants to show a specific concern for personal safety.

“Given this requirement, the ‘typical’ responsible, law-abiding citizen in San Diego County cannot bear arms in public for self-defense,” wrote Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan. He was joined by Judge Consuelo Callahan, an appointee of President George W. Bush.

In a dissent, Judge Sidney Thomas, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, said the majority ruling “upends the entire California firearm regulatory scheme.”

Thomas said the majority had wrongly reasoned that because California bans the open carry of guns in most public areas, it must permit residents to carry concealed handguns in public without having to show specific concerns for personal safety.

In the case before the court, several people who were denied the right to carry a concealed handgun sued the County of San Diego. A judge ruled for the county. Thursday’s 9th Circuit decision overturned the trial judge’s ruling.

Photo: Rob Bixby via Flickr

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