Federal Appeals Court Rules Second Amendment Does Not Guarantee Right To Carry Concealed Weapon

A federal appeals court ruling on the Second Amendment upheld a California law requiring gun permit applicants to provide a “good cause” for carrying a concealed weapon in public. The 7-4 decision on Thursday by the San Francisco-based Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals directly affects the rights of gun owners in many western states.

Explaining the court’s opinion, Judge William A. Fletcher wrote the Second Amendment does not include the right to have a concealed gun.

“The Second Amendment may or may not protect to some degree a right of a member of the general public to carry a firearm in public. If there is such a right, it is only a right to carry a firearm openly. We hold that the Second Amendment does not preserve or protect a right of a member of the general public to carry concealed firearms in public.”

According to the concealed-carry California law, a gun permit applicant must provide a reasonable cause to carry an unseen weapon, but it is up to local law enforcement agencies to define good cause and set the restrictions on permits. The rules and definitions vary widely from county to county.

A good reason must be provided to carry a concealed gun in California.
Gun permit applicants in California must submit a specific reason to be granted authorization to carry a concealed weapon. [Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images]

In the case reviewed by the appeals court, several gun owners seeking concealed-carry licenses argued rules implemented in San Diego and Yolo Counties violated their Second Amendment rights. The applicants were trained in gun use and had clear backgrounds but were unable to provide a convincing reason to carry a concealed weapon in public.

“Because the Second Amendment does not protect in any degree the right to carry concealed firearms in public, any prohibition or restriction a state may choose to impose on concealed carry — including a requirement of ‘good cause,’ however defined — is necessarily allowed by the Amendment,” Judge Fletcher wrote.

Judge Consuelo M. Callahan disagreed and reasoned California’s law is too restrictive. She said the Second Amendment grants the right to carry a weapon, either openly or concealed, for self-defense. The conflicting county rules, together with California’s outright ban on open-carry weapons, essentially takes away a citizen’s right to protect oneself and others while in public.

Covering Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, the Ninth Circuit ruling concurs with three other regional district courts. The Second, Third, and Fourth Circuits have also sustained good-cause requirements.

The decision on Thursday is actually a reversal of a previous Ninth Circuit ruling that permitted many counties to relax their concealed-carry policies. Two years ago, a panel of three judges said the Second Amendment calls for states to allow “some form of carry” when out in public. However, after the 2014 decision, California Attorney General Kamala Harris appealed the ruling and the court voted to re-hear the case, this time with more judges participating.

Carrying a concealed weapon in public is not necessarily protected by the Second Amendment according to the Ninth Circuit Court.
Many counties in California relaxed their gun permit rules after a 2014 Ninth Circuit ruling said the Second Amendment protects carrying a weapon in public. [Photo by George Frey/Getty Images]

While disappointed by the Ninth Circuit’s decision on Thursday, the gun owners in the case plan to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. While the high court has avoided hearing such cases in the past, many law experts believe the issue will eventually be settled there.

According to a statement from the National Rifle Association, the federal appeals court ruling blatantly disregards people’s right to protect themselves.

“This decision will leave good people defenseless, as it completely ignores the fact that law-abiding Californians who reside in counties with hostile sheriffs will now have no means to carry a firearm outside the home for personal protection,” said NRA legislative chief Chris W. Cox.

Last month, in a different Second Amendment case, the Ninth Circuit ruled people have the right to not only keep and bear arms but also buy and sell them. The concealed-carry weapon decision did not address California’s law prohibiting the open carrying of guns, as this issue was not presented to the federal appeals court.

[Photo by George Frey/Getty Images]

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