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The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a major ruling yesterday on the constitutional right to carry a gun. At issue in the case, Peruta v. San Diego, is a California law that allows licensing a citizen to carry a concealed weapon in the city or county in which he works or resides only if he satisfies several requirements, including establishing "good cause."

Gun-rights advocates were interested in the case because of the question of how courts would interpret the second verb in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: the right of the people to keep and bear arms. A court that viewed bearing as a lesser guarantee than keeping would rule, as the Third Circuit did in Drake v. Filko, in favor of a law like California’s. In Drake, the court upheld a New Jersey law requiring a gun owner to demonstrate to state officials a "justifiable need" before he would be allowed to carry a handgun in public for self-defense.

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh of the legal blog Volokh Conspiracy wrote that

The court concludes that California’s broad limits on both open and concealed carry of loaded guns — with no "shall-issue" licensing regime that assures law-abiding adults of a right to get licenses, but only a "good cause" regime under which no license need be given — "impermissibly infringe[] on the Second Amendment right to bear arms in lawful self-defense."

Gabriel Malor of Ace of Spades highlighted the court’s explanation of what "to bear" means:

The Second Amendment secures the right not only to "keep" arms but also to "bear" them — the verb whose original meaning is key in this case. Saving us the trouble of pulling the eighteenth-century dictionaries ourselves, the Court already has supplied the word’s plain meaning: "At the time of the founding, as now, to ‘bear’ meant to ‘carry.’" Heller, 554 U.S. at 584. Yet, not "carry" in the ordinary sense of "convey[ing] or transport[ing]" an object, as one might carry groceries to the check-out counter or garments to the laundromat, but "carry for a particular purpose — confrontation." Id.

Inconsistency among federal courts (and among state courts) over this issue makes it likely the Supreme Court will decide to take it up. Cato’s Iliya Shapiro considers Drake, for example, "an excellent case for the Court to take up to begin clarifying many of the unanswered questions involving the Second Amendment — such as to what extent it extends beyond the home and whether it can be conditioned on a showing of need."

For several highlights gleaned from yesterday’s opinion, read Bob Owen’s discussion at

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