Fight looms over right to carry gun
Competing rulings by appellate courts set stage for battle.
WASHINGTON — The next big issue in the national debate over guns — whether people have a right to be armed in public — is moving closer to Supreme Court review.
A provocative ruling by a panel of federal appeals court judges in Chicago struck down the only statewide ban on carrying concealed weapons, in Illinois. The ruling is somewhat at odds with those of other federal courts that have largely upheld state and local gun laws, including restrictions on concealed weapons, since the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling declaring that people have a right to have a gun for selfdefense.
In 2008, the court voted 5-4 in District of Columbia v. Heller to strike down Washington’s ban on handgun ownership and focused on the right to defend one’s home. The court left for another day how broadly the Second Amendment may protect gun rights in other settings.
Legal scholars say competing appellate rulings mean that day is drawing near for a new high court case on gun rights.
The appeals court ruling in Chicago came early in a week that ended with the mass shooting in Connecticut that left 28 people dead, including 20 children at an elementary school and the presumed gunman.
Roughly 40 states make it easy for people to carry a gun in public. But in California, New York and a few other states, local and state regulations make it difficult if not impossible to get a license to carry a weapon. Illinois and the District of Columbia had been the only places to refuse to allow people to be armed in public.
Gun rights advocates and gun control supporters are as split over the issue of having guns in public as they were over whether the Constitution protected gun ownership at all — and along the same lines.
Jonathan Lowy, an attorney with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said: “If law enforcement makes a determination that somebody would increase the danger to the public by carrying a loaded gun on the streets, then that person should not be carrying a loaded gun. Some people in the gun lobby want to tie the hands of law enforcement.”
But Wayne LaPierre, chief executive officer of the National Rifle Association, said: “Clearly, the individual right under the Constitution does not apply only to your home. People have lives outside their home and the constitutional right applies outside their home.”