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Adam Richards et al v. County of Yolo and Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto

May 13, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morrison C. England, JR United States District Judge


Plaintiffs Adam Richards, Brett Stewart, the Second Amendment Foundation, Inc., and The Calguns Foundation, Inc. (collectively, "Plaintiffs") seek redress from Sheriff Ed Prieto and the County of Yolo (collectively, "Defendants") after Plaintiffs Richards and Stewart were denied gun permits under Yolo County's, and by extension Sheriff Prieto's, concealed weapon licensing policy.

Both Plaintiffs and Defendants have filed Motions for Summary Judgment. A hearing on the matter was held on March 10, 2011. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs' Motion is denied and Defendants' Motion is granted.


A.Concealed Weapon License Policy

California law generally prohibits individuals from carrying a concealed firearm in public. *fn1 See Cal. Penal Code §§ 12025(a)(2), 12027. With a permit and for self-defense purposes, one can obtain 7 a license in California to carry a firearm "capable of being 8 concealed upon the person." Penal Code § 12050(a)(1)(A)(i). 9

However, applicants for such a license must provide good cause for applying, and demonstrate they are of "good moral character." Penal Code § 12050(a). Other requirements include a background check and completion of a training course. See id. Beyond these basic requirements, the state grants each municipal or county authority wide latitude to determine both the appropriate criteria for issuing a license and the need to impose any reasonable restrictions on the licensee. Penal Code § 12050(b).

Plaintiffs are not challenging the California statute itself*fn2 , but 2 instead challenge Yolo County's interpretation of their statutory 3 authority, namely its Concealed Weapon License Policy.

Consistent with the regulations under California Penal Code, Yolo County and Defendant Prieto, as the Sheriff, have created a 6 policy regulating the issuance of concealed weapon licenses to Yolo County residents. Sheriff Prieto retains "discretion to issue a 8 license to carry a concealed firearm to residents within Yolo County." (See Policy, ECF No. 60-1, at 1.) The policy, accessible to the public, clearly enumerates the criteria for obtaining the license, and an applicant must, among other things, demonstrate that they have a valid reason to request the permit in the first place. (Id.) Examples of valid reasons listed in the policy "include, but are not limited to:" credible threats of violence against the applicant, and being a business owner who carries large sums of cash. (Id. at 1-2.) Examples of invalid reasons include hunting, fishing, or self-defense "without credible threats of violence." (Id. at 2.) The issuance of a license ultimately bears on whether the "Sheriff or his designee feels there is sufficient reason to grant the license." (Id.)


Plaintiffs Second Amendment Foundation, Inc. and The Calguns Foundation, Inc. are non-profit organizations designed to promote the rights of firearm holders, and more generally anti-gun control advocates. (SAC 2.) Both Plaintiffs Richards and Stewart are members and supporters of both organizations. (Id. at 1.)

In March 2009, Plaintiff Richards contacted the Yolo County Sheriff's office to inquire about the procedure to obtain a permit to carry a handgun. Defendant was told that he could not obtain a concealed weapon license for self-defense purposes because that would not constitute good cause under the terms of the policy. (Id. at 4.) In addition, since Plaintiff Richards resides in Davis, the Yolo County Sheriff's office informed him that he would first have to apply for a concealed weapon license from the Chief of Police in the City of Davis. (Id.)

Similarly, in March 2010, Plaintiff Stewart applied for a concealed weapon license from Yolo County, after first being told that Davis police had discontinued issuing Carry Concealed Weapon permits. (Id. at 5.) On April 27, 2010, Plaintiff Stewart was informed in writing that he was being denied a permit by Yolo County because his application did not "'meet the criteria'" for granting a license, as outlined in the policy. (Id.)


The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure*fn3 provide for summary judgment when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). One of the principal purposes of Rule 56 is to dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986).

In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must examine all the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. U.S. v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962). Once the moving party meets the requirements of Rule 56 by showing that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case, the burden shifts to the party resisting the motion, who "must set forth specific facts ...

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