Carry On, Gun Owners

Second Amendment rulings


Since 2008 the Supreme Court has twice ruled that Americans have an individual right to possess commonly used weapons for self-defense in the home—a right that must be honored by all levels of government. But what sort of rights does the Court think gun owners have when they step outside with their weapons? 

We may be about to find out. In late 2012, a pair of federal appeals courts came to different conclusions about how the Second Amendment applies to government restrictions on carrying weapons, making it likely that the Supreme Court will soon take up the question. 

In Kachalsky v. Cacace, decided in November 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit upheld New York state's rules restricting carry permits to those who show "proper cause" to a local official. The Supreme Court was asked to reconsider that case in January, though they have yet to officially take it up.

In Moore v. Madigan, decided December 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit overturned an Illinois law that effectively prohibits civilians from carrying guns. Both cases were brought by the Second Amendment Foundation. 

Writing for the majority in Moore, Judge Richard Posner said "the right to 'bear' as distinct from the right to 'keep' arms is unlikely to refer to the home." He concluded that the self-defense right recognized by the Supreme Court in the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision cannot rationally be restricted to the home.

If the Supreme Court takes up Kachalsky and agrees with Posner's interpretation that the core Second Amendment right applies outside the home, states will need a sound reason to stop people from carrying their guns in public. Such a decision would encourage more states to adopt laws that allow law-abiding residents to carry concealed weapons as long as they meet a short list of objective criteria.