Firearms—even those carried by lawful permit holders—are formally prohibited from Morgan Hill’s government offices and other sites after a recent city council decision.
An ordinance approved unanimously by the five-member Morgan Hill Council on May 3 prohibits firearms in “sensitive places,” as defined by recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings. Specifically, sensitive places are government offices, schools, courthouses and polling places, according to a city staff report.
Morgan Hill officials recommended adopting such a local prohibition in response to the Supreme Court’s 2022 New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. vs. Bruen decision. That ruling, in part, established a “new test for evaluating legal challenges under the Second Amendment: if a law regulates conduct covered by the ‘plain text’ of the Second Amendment, the law will be upheld only if the government demonstrates that it is ‘consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation,’” says the city staff report. “However, the Court also reaffirmed that certain locations are ‘sensitive places’ where arms carrying could be prohibited consistent with the Second Amendment.”
The Morgan Hill City Council’s decision prohibits even those who hold a concealed carry weapons permit from bringing firearms into local sensitive places. Other cities in Santa Clara County have considered or adopted similar prohibitions, also in response to the Bruen decision which ultimately made it easier for people to obtain CCW licenses.
“(At) this time, in the absence of state or local legislation prohibiting firearms in specified sensitive locations, the carrying of firearms with a valid permit is lawful in most public and private places in California,” says the city staff report. “Police chiefs and city attorneys in Santa Clara County have been collaborating to develop firearms policies in accordance with Supreme Court guidance, and several cities have already enacted sensitive places ordinances.”
Some council members think the city should go further and prohibit firearms in even more locations.
Council member Rene Spring suggested May 3 that guns should be prohibited in churches. Council member Yvonne Martinez Beltran wondered if locations such as public transit, youth sports facilities, cemeteries and medical facilities could be included as places where the city prohibits firearms.
Morgan Hill City Attorney Don Larkin said city staff could consider such options and return to the council with more information, and perhaps a recommendation. But for now, the ordinance on the table May 3 adheres strictly to what the Supreme Court has specified as “sensitive places,” and that does not include places of worship or other private properties.
City staff also noted that state legislation and other litigation are pending that could expand the list of properties where firearms can be prohibited by the state, county or city. “We expect this list (of sensitive places) will grow,” Morgan Hill Police Capt. Mario Ramirez told the council.
The Bruen decision’s primary implication was that states could no longer require residents to show “proper cause” to obtain a CCW. Earlier this year, the city council approved Morgan Hill’s first CCW program—administered by MHPD—in response to the Bruen ruling.
The ordinance adopted May 3 is a follow-up to the city’s establishment of a CCW program, which police and city staff expect will result in more people lawfully carrying weapons in Morgan Hill.