Buried in the text of a ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that the Second Amendment does not protect the carrying of concealed handguns in public is a potential landmine for anti-gunners that nobody saw coming.
On page 51, in the second paragraph, Judge William A. Fletcher, a Bill Clinton appointee, observed, “The 2nd Amendment may or may not protect to some degree a right of a member of the general public to carry a firearm in public. If there is such a right, it is only a right to carry a firearm openly.”
While Judge Fletcher couches his words with “if,” it seems inescapable that the Second Amendment’s affirmation of a “right to keep and bear arms” must apply to some form of carry. Otherwise, how could someone “bear” arms?
Predictably, anti-gunners have seized on the ruling as an opportunity to challenge right-to-carry statutes. One Washington state lawmaker, Sen. Reuven Carlyle, a Seattle Democrat, reportedly indicated to KIRO News that the ruling should open the door for lawmakers in Olympia to adopt a “good cause” requirement for obtaining a concealed pistol license. Such requirements have allowed authorities in New York, New Jersey, Maryland and now California the ability to deny law-abiding citizens their right of self-defense outside the home.
Currently, more than 541,000 Washington citizens hold concealed pistol licenses. That number has been rising steadily for more than two years at an average of about 2,500 CPLs each month. The ruling has infuriated gun rights activists.
Judge Fletcher’s 52-page majority opinion detailed the history behind concealed carry prohibitions dating back to colonial times and even to England. But it repeatedly stresses that carrying openly was not an issue on the table.
“If there is a Second Amendment right of a member of the general public to carry a firearm openly in public,” the judge wrote, “and if that right is violated, the cure is to apply the Second Amendment to protect that right.”
This ruling applies to the entire Ninth Circuit, which is no small irony because it encompasses nine western states that, outside of southern California, Hawaii, Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Las Vegas, Missoula, and Washington’s Puget Sound area might easily be called the visage of American “gun country.” Arizona and Washington have identical right-to-bear-arms state constitutional provisions. All but two of these states have many residents who habitually open carry.
Chris Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, had some harsh words for the ruling.
“Once again,” Cox said, “the 9th Circuit showed how out of touch it is with mainstream Americans. This decision will leave good people defenseless, as it completely ignores the fact that law-abiding Californians who reside in counties with hostile sheriffs will now have no means to carry a firearm outside the home for personal protection.”
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