2024 Starting with a Bang: A California Law Banning Firearms in Public Places Takes Effect

Written By: McKenzie E. Kestler

The Case That Started It All: New York Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen.

In New York Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, a case decided in 2022, the Supreme Court examined New York State’s gun laws, which made it a crime to possess a firearm without a license. At that time, in New York, an individual could apply and obtain a license to carry a concealed firearm if that person had proper cause for doing so, meaning that person had a greater need for self-protection than other members of the community.

In that case, two men (the petitioners) applied for and were denied unrestricted licenses because they failed to satisfy New York’s proper-cause requirement, ultimately leading them to pursue legal action against the state officials who oversaw the application process. The petitioners stated that their Second Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment Rights—respectively, the right to bear arms and the right to due process and equal protection of the law—were violated by the state officials’ denial of their applications. The Court held that the Second Amendment protects the petitioners’ proposed conduct: carrying handguns in public for self-defense. Although this is protected, New York State’s proper-cause requirement could have survived if the requirement was consistent with the United States’ historical tradition of firearms. The Court was unconvinced that the New York proper-cause requirement aligned with the Nation’s history and tradition, and it held that New York’s proper-cause requirement violated the Fourteenth Amendment.

Bruen’s Impact on California Law.

After this decision was published, California began to alter its concealed carry weapon laws, which were similar to New York’s, and Senate Bill 2 was proposed by State Senator Anthony Portantino and signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom. The Bill did address California’s existing good-cause requirement, but it also banned all firearms in certain sensitive places. In a fact sheet created by the Office of Senator Anthony Portantino, the following places were listed: “school grounds, community college, college, or university grounds, government and judicial buildings, medical facilities, public transportation, any place where alcohol is sold and consumed, public parks and playgrounds, or special events that require a permit.”

Although these restrictions are consistent with Bruen, which recognized that States may limit firearms in sensitive places, the issue was challenged and landed in federal district court. Advocates for greater gun control laws say the restrictions only apply to places where guns should not be, such as schools, whereas gun holders argue that the law is sweeping and makes it impossible for guns to be carried outside the home. U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney sided with California’s gun holders, stating that Senate Bill 2’s “coverage is sweeping, repugnant to the Second Amendment, and openly defiant of the Supreme Court.” Judge Carney then issued an injunction.

On December 22, 2023, California Attorney General Rob Bonta challenged the injunction, requesting the Court of Appeals to halt or stay Judge Carney’s decision pending appeal. The three-judge panel in the 9th Circuit of the Court of Appeals put a temporary hold on the injunction, allowing it to take effect on January 1, 2024, despite the current legal action. Another panel of judges will make a ruling on the law in 2024.

After the ruling, Governor Newsom stated that the Bill is about safety, and that “[the] ruling will allow California’s common-sense gun laws to remain in place while we appeal the district court’s dangerous ruling. Californians overwhelmingly support efforts to ensure that places like hospitals, libraries and children’s playgrounds remain safe and free from guns.”

Will Senate Bill 2 Survive?

What happens next is uncertain and will be decided by a new panel of judges this year. Attorney Kostas Moros, a lawyer in the law firm representing the California Rifle and Pistol Association, stated that “although there might be some sensitive places where you can forbid firearms, we think [Senate Bill 2] goes way beyond what is reasonable and just tries to ban [concealed] carry everywhere.” Furthermore, Attorney Alexander Frank, a lawyer in the same firm, stated that the law is too burdensome on concealed carry permits—no one knows when emergencies that require firearms will occur, and no one gets to choose where these emergencies happen.

However, other States are moving in the same direction as California and are following the sensitive area dichotomy recognized by Bruen. New York passed laws restricting guns in sensitive locations like Times Square, public transportation, sporting events, and churches/places of worship. Some States, such as Illinois, are going further. In 2023, Illinois banned all high-powered guns. The legislation was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. Those in favor of banning guns in sensitive places argue that they want to protect the exercise of other constitutional rights in addition to the existence of vulnerable populations. Many Californians overwhelmingly support these efforts.

Although Senate Bill 2’s fate is uncertain at the U.S. Court of Appeals level, it is possible that this case will go higher and that the Supreme Court will hear it to clarify what the Justices meant in Bruen concerning sensitive areas. In recent history, the Supreme Court has expanded the Second Amendment and found that it is an individual right. As the Court has reaffirmed this broad understanding time and time again, “legislatures seeking to pass gun control measures for public safety purposes have seen their options shrink sharply.” The Second and Fourteenth Amendments provide the right to bear arms for an individual’s self-defense, and the Court will likely not backtrack on this right.


California Law Banning Most Firearms in Public is Set to Take Effect as the Legal Fight Continues, KQED (Dec. 31, 2023), https://www.kqed.org/news/11971307/california-law-banning-most-firearms-in-public-is-set-to-take-effect-as-the-legal-fight-continues.

Gun Rights Supreme Court Cases, JUSTIA, https://supreme.justia.com/cases-by-topic/gun-rights/.

Jeremiah Martinez & Eytan Wallace, Judge Allows CA Concealed Weapons Law to Temporarily Go Into Effect After Initially Blocked, FOX 5 (Dec. 30, 2023, 8:54 PM), https://fox5sandiego.com/news/california-news/judge-allows-ca-concealed-weapons-law-to-temporarily-go-into-effect-after-initially-blocked/.

Kevin Rector, Judges Let New California Ban on Guns in Many Public Places Take Effect Amid Legal Right, LOS ANGELES TIMES (Jan. 2, 2024, 3:00 AM), https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2024-01-02/judges-let-new-california-law-barring-guns-in-many-places-take-effect-challenge-ongoing.

Nate Raymond, US Appeals Court Allows California to Bar Guns in Most Public Places, REUTERS (Jan. 2, 2024, 4:52 AM), https://www.reuters.com/legal/us-appeals-court-allows-california-bar-guns-most-public-places-2023-12-30/.

New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n, Inc. v. Bruen, 597 U.S. 1 (2022).

SB 2 (PORTANTINO) CONCEALED CARRY WEAPON LICENSING LAWS & PENAL CODE UPDATES (2023) https://sd25.senate.ca.gov/sites/sd25.senate.ca.gov/files/portantino_sb_2_fact_sheet.pdf.