The Liberal-Leaning Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Affirms Right to Self-Defense
Rub your eyes now, because you are not going to believe what you are about to read. Two different panels of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals have written opinions that, when taken together, equate to a roadmap for the right to “keep and bear arms” with the right to open or constitutional carry for self-defense.
Last week, a divided court affirmed a trial court’s injunction blocking the state of California’s confiscation of so-called “large capacity” magazines. The court made two important statements. The first was that the Second Amendment protected ownership of weapons that have a “reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia.” The second key statement to the ruling statted “the ammunition for a weapon is similar to the magazine for a weapon.” That meant the state of California’s ban on magazines over 10 rounds was invalid under protections granted by the Second Amendment.
This new ruling, combined with Heller’s clear statement that the Second Amendment protects weapons in “common use” for “lawful purposes,” clearly prohibits lawmakers from proclaiming firearms such as AR-15s to be assault weapons in an effort to diminish their protection under the constitution.
The second case was decided yesterday. A different panel of judges (in a 2-1 decision) struck down the state of Hawaii’s ban on openly carrying weapons outside the home. While this is an important victory, it is also a shift in the court’s thinking. The Ninth Circuit had previously ruled that the Second Amendment did not “preserve or protect a right of a member of the general public to carry concealed firearms in public.” I am not sure if the court has simply come to a better understanding or the confirmation of Associate Justice Gorsuch and nomination of Kavanagh to the Supreme Court has simply forced them to wave the flag of surrender.
The Ninth Circuit is made of Western states such as California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, and a few more. Whichever way the court ruled, the decision is likely to be challenged and escalated to the Supreme Court.
The author of the majority opinion, Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, used a comprehensive analysis of early-American and post-Civil War gun rights debates (including the racist history of Reconstruction-era carry limitations on black Americans) and concluded that while the Second Amendment may not protect a right to concealed carry, it most definitely protects a right to carry.
The practical effect of the decision, especially combined with other case law, demonstrates that the state has a choice: protect a right to concealed carry, protect a right to open carry, or protect both. But if you block a citizen’s right to carry entirely (or limit the right to a “small and insulated subset of law-abiding citizens”), you violate those citizens’ right to “bear” arms.