In a crushing blow, the Supreme Court denied an appeal that would strike down California’s restrictive gun laws. California gun laws, according to the nation’s high court, are here to stay.
The court refused to hear the appeal of Peruta v. California, in which addressed a major Second Amendment question. The case itself had to do with California’s tight regulations on carrying concealed weapons in public. Currently, California citizens must apply for a gun permit through a very strict process, that relies on the often subjective and arbritary judgement of a government official. That is, the applicant must prove they have “good cause,” for wanting a gun, and simple self-defense is not enough.
The permitting process in California is often sardonically called a, “may issue,” system. Meaning, that an owner may get a permit, they may not. Gun rights advocates protested, stating that gun owners in the state’s major cities were being denied their Constitutional rights. They should be able to carry a gun outside their home.
The case first went to a San Diego court, which upheld the law. But, then the advocates groups persisted, going to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The 9th Circuit heard the case in 2014. In a 2-1 decision, the court said that the Second Amendment did protect a person’s right to have a gun in public.
But, the decision was appealed, and the 9th Circuit Court had to reconsider the case in 2016. Trying to understand the Constitutional context of the right to bear arms, the court studied historical references. They found that an English law, passed in 1541, prohibited the carrying of a concealed gun in public without a license. This was the law of the land for centuries, and was likely the tradition in which the Constitutional framers wrote.
“Based on the overwhelming consensus of historical sources, we conclude 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,” Judge William Fletcher wrote.
The court then voted 7-4 in in favor of the law, stating that “The Second Amendment does not preserve or protect a right of a member of the general public to carry concealed firearms in public.”
Then the former Solicitor General Paul Clement filed an appeal with the Supreme Court to overrule the decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. But, the SCOTUS denied hearing the case. However, in a rare case of a published dissenting opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote an interesting memorandum addressing the issue.
They said that the court’s refusal to hear the case, “reflects a distressing trend: the treatment of the second Amendment as a disfavored right.”
Judge Thomas who spoke on behalf of both officials continued, “”We should have granted certiorari in this case. The approach taken by the en banc court is indefensible, and the petition raises important questions that this Court should address. … The en banc court’s decision to limit its review to whether the Second Amendment protects the right to concealed carry—as opposed to the more general right to public carry—was untenable. Most fundamentally, it was not justified by the terms of the complaint, which called into question the State’s regulatory scheme as a whole.”
Thomas also said that the issue of the Second Amendment is a pressing matter in today’s climate, and that politicians may be too sheltered by government provided security to see it.
“For those of us who work in marbled halls, guarded constantly by a vigilant and dedicated police force, the guarantees of the Second Amendment might seem antiquated and superfluous,” he said. “But the Framers made a clear choice: They reserved to all Americans the right to bear arms for self-defense. I do not think we should stand by idly while a State denies its citizens that right, particularly when their very lives may depend on it.”
He took exception to the idea that the Framers did not intend for the citizens to carry arms in public. “I find it extremely improbable that the Framers understood the Second Amendment to protect little more than carrying a gun from the bedroom to the kitchen,” he said.
The National Rifle Association issued a statement expressing their disappointment with the court’s refusal to hear the case.
“We are disappointed in the Court’s rejection of the appeal in Peruta v. California, which now leaves millions of law-abiding Californians with no ability to bear arms outside the home,” Chris Cox, the head of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said. “As Justices Thomas and Gorsuch correctly stated, too many courts have been treating the Second Amendment as a second-class right. That should not be allowed to stand.”
But the NRA explained that they would not be swayed though. They would continue to fight the restrictive California gun laws until they are overturned.