This Week: Supreme Court Examines Guns Outside the Home

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WASHINGTON – Guns will be on the table Friday when the Supreme Court meets in private conference to consider potential cases for next fall’s docket.

Just figuratively, of course. The petitions scheduled for potential discussion include three that challenge state or federal gun-control laws.

None of those cases directly raises the next big legal issue in the national debate over guns: whether the right to keep a gun at home for self-defense extends to public places. The justices could choose to take on that issue now, but it would be a stretch.

However, a federal appeals court panel’s divided ruling last week in a California case makes it more likely that the question of guns outside the home will be heading to the high court soon.

Ever since Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for a divided court in 2008 that the Second Amendment to the Constitution protects the right to possess guns at home, the question of public places has been looming. Many states impose restrictions, such as requiring a demonstrated need to carry a gun, whether concealed or in plain sight. Most lower courts have upheld those restrictions.

To date, the biggest split from that trend involved an Illinois law that was much more restrictive than those in other states. Its ban on carrying concealed weapons in nearly all circumstances was struck down by a 7th Circuit appeals court panel. Rather than appealing to the Supreme Court, however, the state amended the law to allow for public possession, with restrictions.

The question for the court to answer, eventually, is whether such restrictions are constitutional. The high court has batted down several petitions in recent years from firearms groups rather than answer that question. After the December 2012 school shootings in Newtown, Conn., the issue became more politically charged.

Now, however, calls for tougher gun-control laws are waning; President Obama barely mentioned it in his State of the Union Address last month.

“I think the Newtown effect is fading,” says Adam Winkler, a UCLA law professor and author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America.

Friday’s decision by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals changes the equation. The majority opinion struck down San Diego County’s restrictions as a violation of Second Amendment rights. It may be reviewed by the full appeals court, but if the ruling holds, it would represent a clear split with other appeals court rulings that have upheld restrictions.

“The Second Amendment does require that the states permit some form of carry for self-defense outside the home,” the panel said. “States may not destroy the right to bear arms in public under the guise of regulating it.”

The petitions to be discussed at this Friday’s high court conference focus on gun rights for 18- to 20-year-olds and challenges to laws that restrict interstate gun transfers. Although the justices could choose one of those cases to take on the question of public possession, it is unlikely.

Soon, however, the court will consider a petition that presents the issue squarely. Opponents of New Jersey’s restrictions on carrying guns in public have asked the justices to overrule a 3rd Circuit appeals court ruling in Drake v. Jerejian that upheld the state law. Now that the 9th Circuit has ruled the other way, either case could provide a Supreme Court showdown.

“Drake presents very strong splits on carrying outside the home and the need for evidence in Second Amendment cases,” says Alan Gura, the lawyer for those challenging New Jersey’s law. After Friday’s ruling by the 9th Circuit against San Diego County’s restrictions, he says, “That just became much stronger.”

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  • gwwilliams

    What part of “shall not be infringed” do they NOT understand?

  • Ask yourself why such determinations concerning an entire nation (approximately 316 million people) are in the hands of a five (5) Supreme Court justices? Hello!!!

    Additionally, had the framers established government upon Yahweh’s commandments, statutes, and civil judgments–in this instance, upon Exodus 22:2-3,
    Psalm 149:6-9, 1 Timothy 5:8, etc.–American firearm possession would NEVER BE PUT IN JEOPARDY to a five to four majority of unbiblically qualified Supreme Court Justices, consisting of both men and women. There would be nothing for the Supreme Court or any lower court to decide. The only thing that would be decided by a Biblically qualified judge regarding a firearm’s case would be if it was used to commit a crime as defined by the Bible.

    “…Because this is a “right” codified by the United States Constitutional Republic and thereby brought under its jurisdiction, the Constitutional Republic can divest its citizens of this right – something it has been doing incrementally for some time. On June 26, 2008, in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S., the Supreme Court decided, five to four, that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own and bear firearms. Although gun owners hailed Heller a victory, this battle (which is far from over) concerning the constitutional right to bear arms has diverted our attention from the larger and more consequential battle.

    “Disconcerting as many Americans may find the erosion of the Second Amendment guarantee, what is even more disturbing is that five people have the power to decide whether United States citizens have the right to protect themselves and their families, to what degree, and with what weapons. The Supreme Court has ruled that Americans have the right to bear arms, but only until they say otherwise. Many Americans who celebrated Heller overlooked the fact that it can – and likely will – be
    overturned by a future court, just as its decision overturned United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174, rendered in 1939. If you look to the Second Amendment for your authority to bear arms, that authority is contingent upon the fickle nature of nine fallible human beings…”

    For more, see online Chapter 12 ” Amendment 2: Constitutional vs. Biblical Self-Defense” at http://www.bibleversusconstitution.org/BlvcOnline/biblelaw-constitutionalism-pt12.html. Then take our Constitution Survey in the right-hand sidebar and receive a complimentary copy of an 85-page book that examines the Constitution by the Bible.

    • ThePops

      ThePops • a few seconds ago
      Bravo. Extremely clear and concise article. I do not know you or heard of you before but if you can keep presenting your opinions in the same way you presented this one, I, one of many I am sure, can guarantee you will go far. Congratulations

      • Thank you for you encouragement.

        I hope you’ll take our Constitution Survey. I’d love to send you a complimentary copy of the 85-page “Primer” of the 565-page “Bible Law vs. the United States Constitution: The Christian Perspective.”

  • Bob

    MAN usrping Yahweh’s authority once again and claiming superior and eternal knowledge for all their property YE the SHEEPLE.

  • ThePops

    Bravo. Extremely clear and concise article. I do not know you or heard of you before but if you can keep presenting your opinions in the same way you presented this one, I, one of many I am sure, can guarantee you will go far. Congratulations