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The Second Amendment does not give Americans the right to carry concealed weapons, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday in a decision that could dramatically impact the nation’s gun laws.
“We hold that the Second Amendment does not protect, in any degree, the carrying of concealed firearms by members of the general public,” the opinion by the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals read. It was written by Judge Susan P. Graber, a Clinton nominee. “We therefore conclude that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms does not include, in any degree, the right of a member of the general public to carry concealed firearms in public.”
The case, Peruta v. San Diego County, originated out of California, although its effect was felt across the country. The vote was 7-4.
“The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held today that residents have no Second Amendment right to carry a firearm outside their home for self-defense,” Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said. “In effect, the appeals court ruled that San Diego County can outlaw guns outside the home by declining to issue anyone a permit. This court’s decision is a direct challenge to the Second Amendment and is unconstitutional.”
In a dissent, Judge Consuelo Callahan, a nominee of President George W. Bush, wrote, “A prohibition on carrying concealed handguns in conjunction with a prohibition of open carry of handguns would destroy the right to bear and carry arms.”
The sheriff’s departments in two California counties, Yolo and San Diego, only issue concealed carry permits to people who can prove they are in danger from violent attack – such as by showing a restraining order. In 2009 two men, Edward Peruta of San Diego and Adam Richards of Yolo County, applied for concealed carry permits and were turned down.
That prompted the California Rifle and Pistol Association to sue the counties in federal court on behalf of Peruta, Richards and three others. Last year, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled that the policy violated the Second Amendment. The entire Ninth Circuit overturned that ruling on Thursday.
The immediate impact of the ruling is that it affects only the states in the Ninth Circuit: Alaska, Washington state, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Nevada, California and Hawaii. But if it is appealed to the US Supreme Court and upheld, then concealed carry could be banned nationwide.
The case attracted national attention, with briefs filed by states outside the district, including Alabama. All total, 20 other states signed the brief: Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
The defendants in the case, San Diego County Sheriff William D. Gore and the state of California, were represented by California Solicitor General Edward C. DuMont. DuMont appealed the loss from last year, after Gore declined to do so, the Associated Press reported. The plaintiffs were represented by Paul D. Clement, who served as US solicitor general during the George W. Bush administration.
Interestingly, the court refused to touch on the issue of open carry of firearms in public.
“We do not reach the question whether the Second Amendment protects some ability to carry firearms in public, such as open carry,” the opinion read. “The Second Amendment may or may not protect, to some degree, a right of a member of the general public to carry firearms in public. We hold only that there is no Second Amendment right for members of the general public to carry concealed firearms in public.”
The court also ruled that the US Supreme Court’s Heller decision, which upheld the right of private gun ownership, does not affect concealed carry.
Most observers expect Peruta will be appealed to the US Supreme Court – the only court of appeal from the Ninth Circuit.
The case will presumably arrive at the Supreme Court sometime after Justice Antonin Scalia’s replacement is on the court. Scalia, whose opinions supported gun rights, died in February.
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