A California-based federal court has ruled the Constitution does not protect the right of American citizens to carry a concealed firearm in public, reversing an earlier court ruling that said state laws requiring applicants to show “good reason” to carry were illegal.
In the 7-4 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit argued that while the Second Amendment may protect the right of Americans to carry firearms outside the home in some fashion, it did not preclude states from restricting those who can carry concealed. The ruling is consistent with previous Circuit court decisions that have affirmed rules in states such as Maryland, New York and New Jersey that require concealed carry license applicants to show a verifiable reason why they need a permit, including documented threats against their life or business activities that require carrying large sums of cash or other theft-prone goods.
In 2014, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit found that rules in some of California’s counties requiring a permit applicant show good cause were illegal, teeing up a hearing from a wider panel of judges on the Circuit, dubbed “en banc.”
In its latest ruling, the judges hinted at a potential Supreme Court fight over whether the Second Amendment protects the right of Americans to carry firearms in public unconcealed — what many gun rights advocates call “open carry.”
“We hold that the Second Amendment does not protect, in any degree, the carrying of concealed firearms by members of the general public,” wrote Judge William Fletcher for the majority. He added that the judges “need not, and do not, answer the question of whether or to what degree the Second Amendment might or might not protect a right of a member of the general public to carry firearms openly in public.”
The landmark Heller decision by the Supreme Court affirmed constitutional protections for Americans to keep firearms in the home. The latest battle is brewing over whether the Second Amendment’s wording affirming the right to “bear arms” applies to carrying firearms in public.
In Florida, the state supreme court this month is hearing arguments over whether the state’s ban on openly carried firearms is constitutional, with pro-carry advocates saying Florida has provided no evidence that unrestricted carry is a threat.
In Washington, D.C., a Federal District Court ruled in May the city’s good reason requirement to justify a concealed carry permit was “inconsistent with the individual right to bear arms under the Second Amendment.”
In his ruling striking down D.C.’s good reason provision, District Judge Richard Leon argued the plaintiffs “will suffer irreparable harm absent preliminary injunctive relief, and that the equities and the public interest weigh in plaintiffs’ favor.”
Nevertheless, an appeals court granted a stay of Leon’s ruling, keeping the good reason rule in place and allowing the city’s police chief to reject applications at her discretion.
It is unclear how the California ruling will affect concealed carry rights nationwide, with many pro-gun advocates pushing for relaxation of the permitting process in states across the country.
Only eight states and the District of Columbia require citizens show a good cause for a permit. Nine states allow concealed carry without any permit.