U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Appeal Seeking Gun-Carrying Rights

Updated on
  • Gorsuch, Thomas say they would have heard arguments in case
  • Supreme Court hasn’t heard Second Amendment case since 2010

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider loosening restrictions on carrying firearms in public, rejecting an appeal by California gun-rights advocates and continuing to steer clear of one of the nation’s most polarizing issues.

The justices left intact a San Diego County policy that requires people to show a special need in order to get a license to carry a concealed handgun outside the home. A divided federal appeals court had upheld the policy.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch said the high court should have heard the case.

"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," Thomas wrote for the pair. "But the framers made a clear choice: They reserved the right to bear arms for self-defense."

The high court has turned away gun-rights appeals repeatedly since its last Second Amendment case in 2010, declining to carve out new constitutional protections for firearm owners outside the home.

Five San Diego County residents and a gun-rights group argued in their appeal that “the Constitution guarantees ordinary, law-abiding citizens some means of bearing firearms outside the home for self-defense, whether it be open or concealed carrying.”

California is one of about 8 states that bar most people from carrying weapons in public. California makes an exception for residents who can show “good cause” to carry a concealed handgun, while leaving it to local authorities to decide what meets that standard.

San Diego County’s sheriff said “good cause” must be more than a desire to carry a weapon for general self-defense purposes. The county requires a person to show a “set of circumstances that distinguishes the applicant from other members of the general public and causes him or her to be placed in harm’s way.”

The 7-4 appeals court decision said the San Diego residents’ lawsuit focused solely on the right to carry a concealed weapon, not broader issues about Second Amendment rights outside the home.

“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 for the majority.

The challengers said the courts should have looked at California’s laws as a whole, including its prohibition on open carrying of weapons in most cases.

“The result is that the typical law-abiding resident cannot bear a handgun for self-defense outside the home at all,” the group, led by Edward Peruta, argued.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra urged the high court not to hear the case. He said states could allow concealed carry if they chose.

The appeals court ruling “holds only that a state cannot be forced to make that particular choice,” Becerra argued.

The case is Peruta v. California, 16-894.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.