The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly stated that the Second Amendment protects the right to armed self-defense. Does that right extend outside the home? Does it cover the right to carry concealed firearms in public? In a divided opinion issued today, an 11-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit answered the second of those questions in the negative. "We conclude," the 9th Circuit held in Peruta v. San Diego, "that the protection of the Second Amendment — whatever the scope of that protection may be — simply does not extend to the carrying of concealed firearms in public by members of the general public."
If the case name Peruta v. San Diego sounds familiar that's because the 9th Circuit has ruled on this matter once before. In February 2014 a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit struck down San Diego's requirement that conceal-carry permits only be issued to those gun owners who can convince local authorities that they have a "good cause" for carrying guns in public. What exactly counts as a "good cause," you may wonder? According to San Diego officials, "one's personal safety is not considered good cause." That dubious standard led the three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit to overrule the requirement. "In California the only way that the typical responsible, law-abiding citizen can carry a weapon in public for the lawful purpose of self-defense is with a concealed-carry permit. And, in San Diego County, that option has been taken off the table," the court said.
The local sheriff who lost the case at that stage decided not to appeal. But the state of California petitioned for the right to intervene and file an appeal of its own. That petition was initially denied but then granted by the 9th Circuit. Today's judgment is the result of the state's late entry into the case.
To put it mildly, gun control enthusiasts in the California government got all they wanted and more. Not only did the 9th Circuit overturn its previous decision and affirm the "good cause" requirement, it handed gun rights advocates a sweeping defeat. "Because the Second Amendment does not protect in any degree the right to carry concealed firearms in public," the 9th Circuit majority declared today, "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" (emphasis added).
Writing in dissent, Judge Callahan, joined by three other 9th Circuit judges, blasted the majority for transforming the Second Amendment into a "second class" right. "In the context of present-day California law," Callahan observed, "the Defendant counties' limited licensing of the right to carry concealed firearms is tantamount to a total ban on the right of an ordinary citizen to carry a firearm in public for self-defense. Thus, Plaintiffs' Second Amendment rights have been violated. While states may choose between different manners of bearing arms for self-defense, the right must be accommodated."
The 9th Circuit's decision today in Peruta v. San Diego is available here.