Opening Brief Filed in 14th Amendment Equality Lawsuit Challenging Special Gun Privileges for Retired “Peace Officer” Government Employees

April 04, 2017

SAN FRANCISICO, CA (April 4, 2017) — Attorneys for 4 civil rights advocacy organizations and 11 individuals filed an opening brief yesterday afternoon at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a federal lawsuit challenging the State’s many special statutory exemptions to gun laws for retired “peace officers” as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

The brief argues, among other things, that the retired “peace officer” exemption to California’s Gun-Free School Zone Act violates the Equal Protection Clause because it bears no rational relation to the purpose of the Act, that the classification favors retired “peace officers” over a similarly-situated group (civilians with a carry license), and that the retired peace officer classification further violates the equal protection clause because it is simply a benefit conferred on a politically powerful class that is denied to a politically unpopular class.

“The exemption is so broad that it even applies to retirees from ‘any federal law enforcement agency’ now authorized to carry a concealed weapon, regardless of whether they ever used a weapon in their pre-retirement duties,” wrote attorney Bradley Benbrook in the brief. “Thus, for instance, retired Internal Revenue Service agents and other federal agents are exempt simply by virtue of retiring in California or working for the agency in California for more than a year.”

The case, captioned Ulises Garcia, et al. v. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, was filed after California enacted Senate Bill 707 (SB 707) in 2015, which was originally written to remove all civilian exemptions to the Gun-Free School Zone Act—including those for both retired “peace officers” and CCW licensees—but was later amended to re-include the exemption for retirees following significant lobbying by law enforcement associations and government employee special interest groups.

Craig DeLuz, an individual plaintiff in the case and a spokesperson for Firearms Policy Coalition, believes this case is about justice and equality. “As both a parent and a school board member, I believe it's important that our children see that the justice system does not allow the government to play favorites,” DeLuz said.

In 2002, the Ninth Circuit held in Silveira v. Lockyer that a “retired officers exception [to the Assault Weapons Control Act] arbitrarily and unreasonably affords a privilege to one group of individuals that is denied to others.”  That legal analysis was reinforced in a 2010 opinion by then-Attorney General Jerry Brown, in which he held that “Silveira teaches that it is….a peace officer’s role as a law enforcement agent that provides a rational basis for distinguishing between a peace officer and a private citizen for purposes of possessing and using assault weapons. A retired officer is not authorized to engage in law enforcement activities.”

Civil rights groups Firearms Policy Coalition, Firearms Policy Foundation, The Calguns Foundation, and Madison Society Foundation are organizational plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Key filings, including the appeal brief and related request for judicial notice (as well as 39 related exhibits) filed today, can be viewed or downloaded at www.firearmsfoundation.org/sb707.

Firearms Policy Foundation (www.firearmsfoundation.org) is a 501(c)3 grassroots nonprofit organization. FPF’s mission is to defend the Constitution of the United States and the People’s rights, privileges and immunities deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition, especially the inalienable, fundamental, and individual right to keep and bear arms.

Firearms Policy Coalition (www.firearmspolicy.org) is a 501(c)4 grassroots nonprofit organization.  FPC’s mission is to defend the Constitution of the United States, especially the fundamental, individual Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, through advocacy, legal action, education, and outreach.

The Calguns Foundation (www.calgunsfoundation.org) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that serves its members, supporters, and the public through educational, cultural, and judicial efforts to advance Second Amendment and related civil rights.

Madison Society Foundation (www.madison-society.org) was founded in 2001 as a tax exempt (501)(c)(3) organization. The mission and objective of the foundation is to serve and protect citizens of the United States their constitutional and civil rights as defined in the Bill of Rights Second Amendment.