SACRAMENTO -- California's system for handing out permits to carry concealed handguns would be overhauled and centralized under a newly amended bill by Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, the leading Republican gubernatorial candidate.

Introduced in the wake of a federal appeals court decision declaring unconstitutional the restrictions that many California counties have used to sharply limit the right to carry a concealed weapon, Donnelly's AB1563 would strip county sheriffs of the authority and discretion to grant or deny such permits -- and instead give that authority to the state Justice Department.

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, takes his seat in the Assembly, Jan. 4, 2012. (Associated Press)
Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, takes his seat in the Assembly, Jan. 4, 2012. (Associated Press) ( Rich Pedroncelli )

The bill "fixes California's handgun-carry license system by implementing a fair, efficient and effective framework that eliminates the burden on local law enforcement while still requiring background checks and that licensees be law-abiding people," Donnelly, R-Hesperia, said Thursday. "What we're doing is unwinding decades of unconstitutional laws and replacing them with a framework that respects our Second Amendment rights, bringing us in line with dozens of other states."

The Assembly Public Safety Committee will hear the bill Tuesday, but it's almost certainly dead on arrival in the Democrat-controlled Legislature. However, it probably will further rally gun-rights advocates to support Donnelly's bid to become governor.

By state law, requirements for concealed-carry permits include demonstrating "good moral character," taking a training course and establishing "good cause." But sheriffs and police chiefs have the discretion to decide what "good cause" means, and many have set policies requiring proof of a specific need for self-protection.

In a 2-1 ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in February found San Diego County's policy -- which mirrors many others across the state -- "impermissibly infringes on the Second Amendment right to bear arms in lawful self-defense."

San Diego County chose not to appeal, but state Attorney General Kamala Harris has asked the court to rehear the case with a larger panel.

Donnelly had offered a bill in March to require sheriffs and police chiefs to abide by broader standards of "good cause." But he amended it this week to consolidate authority in Sacramento and create one objective standard.

Harris' office declined to comment Thursday, and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence was unavailable for comment except to say it's drafting a memo in opposition to the bill.

"The great disparity in policy and process across hundreds of California licensing authorities begs for a uniform system that protects their civil rights, conforms to precedent, and furthers the state's narrowly tailored interest in regulating the right to carry," he said Thursday.

Donnelly is still on probation after pleading no contest in 2012 to misdemeanor charges of carrying a loaded firearm in public without a concealed-weapons permit and possessing a gun in an airport; he had a loaded .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun in his carry-on bag as he tried to board a plane at the Ontario airport.

Polls released this month by Field Research and the Public Policy Institute of California show Donnelly far ahead of Republican gubernatorial candidates Andrew Blount and Neel Kashkari but far behind incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown.

Josh Richman covers politics. Contact him at 510-208-6428. Follow him at Twitter.com/josh_richman. Read the Political Blotter at IBAbuzz.com/politics.