The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on Wednesday, March 25, ruled that states may restrict the open carrying of guns in public.
In a 7-4 ruling, the court upheld Hawaii’s limits on openly carrying firearms in public, rejecting a challenge from Hawaii resident George Young, who argued that the state’s restrictions on his ability to carry a firearm outside of his home were against the Constitution.
“There is no right to carry arms openly in public; nor is any such right within the scope of the Second Amendment,” Judge Jay Bybee, a nominee of George W. Bush, wrote in the majority opinion.
“Our review of more than 700 years of English and American legal history reveals a strong theme: the government has the power to regulate arms in the public square,” he continued. “History is messy and, as we anticipated, the record is not uniform, but the overwhelming evidence from the states’ constitutions and statutes, the cases, and the commentaries confirms that we have never assumed that individuals have an unfettered right to carry weapons in public spaces.”
The dissent opinion criticized the ruling for whittling down the Second Amendment to a “mere inkblot.”
“Today, a majority of our court has decided that the Second Amendment does not mean what it says. Instead, the majority holds that while the Second Amendment may guarantee the right to keep a firearm for self-defense within one’s home, it provides no right whatsoever to bear—i.e., to carry—that same firearm for self-defense in any other place,” Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote.
In his view, the majority’s decision undermines the Constitution’s text and half a millennium of Anglo-American legal history.
The decision is likely to help push the Supreme Court to review the issue. It came amid a heightened national discussion over the Second Amendment’s scope following mass shootings in Colorado and Atlanta this month. President Biden urged Congress to swiftly pass gun control laws and consider a range of executive actions to try to stop gun violence.
New Jersey state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal praised the ruling, “Today the Ninth Circuit agreed that laws that limit carrying guns in public are constitutional. Proud that NJ led a brief for 10 states in that case, & proud to support firearm safety laws that protect both the public & law enforcement officers,” he said.
Gun rights advocates expressed frustration over the decision, with the National Rifle Association pledging to fight against it.
“This was not an NRA case, but we are exploring all options to rectify this,” the NRA wrote in a tweet.