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US Appeals court rules Americans don’t have right to open carry guns in public

Open carry at a Free State Project meeting in Lancaster, New Hampshire in 2009. (Lucio Eastman/Wikimedia Commons)
March 24, 2021

On Wednesday, an en banc panel of the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that the second amendment right to keep and bear arms does not citizens include the right to carry a firearm, either openly or concealed, in public .

The court issued the ruling in the case of George Young Jr. V Hawaii, a lawsuit challenging a Hawaii firearm licensing law, which states residents seeking license to openly carry a firearm in public must demonstrate “the urgency or the need” to carry a firearm, must be of good moral character, and must be “engaged in the protection of life and property.” The court said, “There is no right to carry arms openly in public; nor is any such right within the scope of the Second Amendment.”

The majority opinion also states “we can find no general right to carry arms into the public square for self-defense.” The majority further argued that the second amendment applies to the “defense of hearth and home” and “the power of the government to regulate carrying arms in the public square does not infringe in any way on the right of an individual to defend his home or business.”

The majority ruled opinion covers Hawaii’s law regarding open carrying a firearm and the court further states, “We have previously held that individuals do not have a Second Amendment right to carry concealed weapons in public” meaning they believe no right to carry a firearm in any capacity in public exists.

Four judges dissented from the majority decision in two different dissenting opinions. In one of the dissenting opinions, three judges argued, “The majority’s suggestion that the values of federalism somehow preclude the Second Amendment from guaranteeing an individual right to carry arms for self-defense in the public square is fundamentally misguided” adding, “Hawaii’s severe deprivation of the core right to carry a firearm in public can only be understood as amounting to a total destruction of such right.”

Responding to the decision, the National Rifle Association tweeted, “BREAKING: The US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit just ruled that THERE IS NO RIGHT TO CARRY – either openly or concealed in public. This ruling impacts RTC laws in AK, HI, CA, AZ, OR, WA, & MT. This was not an NRA case but we are exploring all options to rectify this.”

The appeals court’s en banc decision could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, though the Supreme Court has not heard a second amendment case in more than ten years. In April of 2020, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York, New York, which raised issue with a now rescinded New York City rule that prohibited residents from transporting firearms to shooting ranges, competitions and even their secondary residences outside of the city.

Representing the plaintiffs Former Bush administration Solicitor General Paul Clement urged the Supreme Court to take up the case, saying the “single most important unresolved Second Amendment question” on whether the right to bear arms for self-defense extends to “where confrontations often occur: outside the home.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James has written that New York’s laws limiting public carry of firearms is “consistent with the historical scope of the Second Amendment and directly advances New York’s compelling interests in public safety and crime prevention.”

Some gun rights activists have looked to Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment to the Supreme Court as a development that could once again bring second amendment cases back to the highest court in the U.S. In an October interview with CNN, Jacob D. Charles, executive director of the Center of Firearms Law at Duke Law said, “As a circuit judge, Justice Barrett showed a readiness to invoke the Second Amendment to strike down gun regulations, and she is likely to vote with the other justices eager to take up a Second Amendment case.”