A three-Judge panel on the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to openly carry a gun in public for self defense, after finding that a Hawaii court overstepped its authority to regulate the posession of firearms outside the home.
The ruling by the San Francisco-based panel is the sixth US circuit court to similarly interpret the Second Amendment, which could clear a path for the US Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue - which would be the USSC's first significant gun rights case since 2010.
The extent of the right to gun ownership is one of the most hotly contested debates in the United States, where there has been a steady stream of mass shootings.
In a 2-1 decision on Tuesday, the panel found Hawaii infringed on the rights of plaintiff George Young when it twice denied him a permit the state requires to openly carry a gun in public. -Reuters
"We do not take lightly the problem of gun violence," wrote Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain in Tuesday’s ruling. “But, for better or for worse, the Second Amendment does protect a right to carry a firearm in public for self-defense.”
Hawaii's Attorney General Russell Suzuki says the ruling will "undermine Hawaii's strong gun control law and our commitment to protect the public." (Of course when seconds count, even Magnum PI was minutes away.) Suzuki said that state and local authorities would consult on potential next stepss.
In 2016, the 9th Circuit ruled that the Second Amendment did not grant citizens the right to carry concealed firearms in public, based on a case originating in Southern California - a case which the US Supreme Court declined to rule on.
Alan Beck, a lawyer for the plaintiff in Tuesday’s ruling, said he believed the question about openly carrying firearms would eventually end up before the Supreme Court.
“I think the Supreme Court is receptive to this,” Beck said in a phone interview. -Reuters
Dissenting on Tuesday's opinion was Judge Richard Clifton, who said that the Second Amendment did not preclude licensing rules in Hawaii and elsewhere.
Open carry laws vary by state and type of firearm. The most restrictive states, for example, are California, Illinois, Florida and the District of Columbia - which prohibit residents from openly carrying any sort of firearm. Hawaii is somewhat less restrictive, as one one of just 15 states which requires a license or permit to openly carry a handgun.