Federal Appeals Court Rules Against ‘Open Carry’ In Blow To Gun Nuts

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In a major undercut for right-wing pro-gun activists, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that carrying weapons in public is not a Constitutionally guaranteed right. The entire 11-judge court participated in the ruling following a previous ruling from a three-judge panel of the court that reached the exact opposite conclusion. Both rulings concern Hawaii regulations surrounding open carry of firearms and were in response to a lawsuit against state authorities from a man named George Young, who complained that he’d been denied a permit for either concealed or open carry of a handgun.

The 11-judge panel was split in its conclusions, with seven judges backing the ruling and four dissenting. Two of the judges in the majority, Circuit Judges Jay Bybee and Richard Clifton, were appointees of a Republican president, George W. Bush. All other judges lined up roughly in line with their expected partisan affiliation — the rest of the majority was comprised of appointees of Democratic presidents, while all four judges in the minority are appointees of Republicans.

Writing for the majority and noting that a previous Supreme Court decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, concluded that the Second Amendment does not provide a right to “carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose,” Bybee said as follows:

‘There is no right to carry arms openly in public; nor is any such right within the scope of the Second Amendment… The Second Amendment did not contradict the fundamental principle that the government assumes primary responsibility for defending persons who enter our public spaces. The states do not violate the Second Amendment by asserting their longstanding English and American rights to prohibit certain weapons from entering those public spaces as means of providing ‘domestic tranquility’ and forestalling ‘domestic violence.’’

Meanwhile, senior Circuit Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, an appointee of Ronald Reagan, argued for the minority, insisting that “[armed] self-defense in public is at the very core of the Second Amendment right.”

At issue, in part, was a Hawaii County regulation insisting that local authorities “may only grant such licenses to those who need a gun for their job or who show “reason to fear injury” to their “person or property.”” Apparently, only security guards — who could be expected to need a firearm for the performance of their work responsibilities — have ever obtained an open carry permit in Hawaii County, although Hawaii authorities have stated that more recently enacted guidance from the state attorney general supersedes the previously established county-level regulation prioritizing security guards and opens up permitting opportunities.