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Federal court rules Constitution gives right to carry guns in public

Open carry at a Free State Project meeting in Lancaster, NH, in 2009. (Lucio Eastman/WikiCommons)
July 25, 2018

A U.S. federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that the Second Amendment of the Constitution guarantees the right to openly carry a gun in public for self-defense.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reached a two-to-one decision, finding that the state of Hawaii infringed on plaintiff George Young’s rights when it denied him a permit the state requires to openly carry a gun in public on two occasions.

The federal appeals court ruled that the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment guarantees the right to openly carry a gun in public for self-defense, making the San Francisco-based court the sixth U.S. appeals court to interpret the Second Amendment that way.

Hawaii is one of 15 states that requires a license or permit to openly carry a handgun.

In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for the first time that the Second Amendment protected an individual’s right to keep guns at home for self-defense.

The most recent ruling could pave the path for the case to be heard at the U.S. Supreme Court, which has not heard a major gun rights case since 2010.

“We do not take lightly the problem of gun violence. But, for better or for worse, the Second Amendment does protect a right to carry a firearm in public for self-defense,” Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote in Tuesday’s ruling, Reuters reported.

State Attorney General Russell Suzuki said the ruling would “undermine Hawaii’s strong gun control law and our commitment to protect the public.”

He added that state and local authorities would consult on what further action to take, according to Reuters.

In 2016, in a case originating in southern California, the same appeals court ruled that the Second Amendment did not guarantee a right to carry concealed firearms in public.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule on that decision in 2017.

Alan Beck, a lawyer for the plaintiff, says he believes the question about openly carrying firearms will eventually end up before the Supreme Court.

“I think the Supreme Court is receptive to this,” Beck said, according to Reuters.

Judge Richard Clifton dissented from Tuesday’s ruling, saying the Second Amendment did not preclude the sort of licensing rules used in Hawaii and elsewhere.

The National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action applauded the ruling, the NRA-ILA reported.

“This is a critical issue for law-abiding gun owners who want to exercise their right to self-defense outside the home. The Second Amendment clearly protects the right to bear arms in public,” said Chris Cox, executive director.