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Federal Appeals Court Says There Is No Right To Carry Concealed Weapons In Public

Dealing a blow to gun supporters, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday that Americans do not have a constitutional right to carry concealed weapons in public.
Al Behrman
Dealing a blow to gun supporters, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday that Americans do not have a constitutional right to carry concealed weapons in public.

A federal appeals court in California ruled today that local authorities have the right to require people to obtain permits before carrying concealed weapons in public.

In a 7-4 decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Second Amendment right to bear arms does not include carrying a concealed gun. The ruling upholds a California handgun permit law, one of the toughest in the country. The opinion is binding only in the Western states covered by the 9th Circuit (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington).

The decision reverses a 2014 ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit that found California's handgun control law unconstitutional.

Judge William Fletcher wrote for the full-court majority:

"The right of a member of the general public to carry a concealed firearm in public is not, and never has been, protected by the Second Amendment. Therefore, 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."

The case involves gun owners in two California counties, San Diego and Yolo, who were denied permits to carry concealed weapons. Under state law, applicants have to show good moral character, have a good cause and take a training course.

At the heart of the dispute was the interpretation of "good cause."

AS NPR's Kirk Siegler reported for NPR's Newscast Unit:

"Basically applicants for a concealed-carry weapons permit in San Diego County had to demonstrate that they were in some sort of immediate danger — they were, say, carrying a large sum of money, or their life was clearly at risk. In other words, they couldn't just get a concealed-carry permit on the basis of self-defense alone."

Gun rights groups challenged California's handgun law as an infringement of the Second Amendment. Agreeing with them in a dissent was Judge Consuelo Callahan:

"The Second Amendment is not a 'second-class' constitutional guarantee. ... The majority fails to recognize the real impact of the counties' policies on the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.