Firearms Policy Coalition has filed an updated letter of opposition to California Assembly Bill 1134, an anti-gun proposal by Assemblymember Mark Stone. The bill was recently amended, prompting FPC to substantively address the many new problems AB 1134 would create.
As our letter explains,
California’s sheriffs—the chief law enforcement officers of California’s 58 counties—have argued for decades, in courts and to the Legislature, that public safety requires them to retain the authority to decide, on a case-by-case basis, who should be free to exercise fundamental rights…Their sponsorship and advocacy in support of Assembly Bill 1134 directly conflicts with and undermines that position.
We, however, agree with the sheriffs’ implicit argument that they are not the proper judge of who should be allowed to exercise fundamental rights and who cannot. Indeed, the United States Constitution offers a better policy, one that was ratified by the People: “The very enumeration of the right [to keep and bear arms] takes out of the hands of government”—even sheriffs—“the power to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the right is really worth insisting upon.” District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 634 (2008) (emphasis in original).
Since the sheriffs now appear willing to concede that they cannot handle hundreds of thousands of new carry license applicants and that they are nothing more than simple administrators of the State’s licensing scheme, perhaps they would reconsider their opposition to the consolidated regulatory system sought in Assembly Bill 1563 (2013, Donnelly) and use their energy to propose a similar measure in the future.
AB 1134 would create new, undemocratic dynamics in the law, including the potential for sheriffs to abandon their responsibility to a single, unelected police chief by verbal agreement without any public hearing or other opportunity for the community to raise an objection to the policy. It would also mean that fewer Californians would be able to acquire a carry license.
AB 1134 is a transparent attempt on the part of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to allow sheriffs avoid responsibility for promulgating and enforcing an unlawful policy, struck down in Lu v. Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca.
AB 1134 stands for the proposition that if a local agency ignores for decades the Legislature’s well-considered mandates, gets sued for it, and loses in court, the Legislature will save that agency from responsibility by passing a bill to bail them out.