Gun fetishists lost hard last week in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals as the court, in a sweeping ruling, held there is no Second Amendment right to carry a concealed firearm in public. It’s a significant decision and one that almost guarantees the Supreme Court will be re-entering the gun control debate in the coming term.
The legal challenge before the court was actually rather narrow. A Washington state man challenged Colorado’s law to issue Concealed Handgun License (CHL) permits only to state residents, arguing it was unconstitutional because it discriminated against out-of-states citizens. That challenge allowed the court to examine the underlying conceal and carry law, which is likely not what gun advocates had in mind.
The Colorado law at issue allows people to have a firearm in their homes, places of business and cars. But to carry a concealed weapon in public, a state resident must apply to a local sheriff to get a permit. Gray Peterson argued that the law left him “completely disarmed” when, as an out-of-state citizen he came to Colorado.
But neither the district court nor the Tenth Circuit agreed. First, and importantly, the court held the Second Amendment did not guarantee a right to carry a concealed firearm. Period. End of story. And to support that initial assertion the court cited the Supreme Court’s decision in Heller v. D.C., a decision gun enthusiasts adore because it struck the District of Colombia’s handgun ban.
The Tenth Circuit then goes on to explain how NRA-backed efforts at blocking reasonable information about gun purchasers are the real reason Peterson can’t get a permit. That’s because sheriffs use locally-maintained databases to check for misdemeanor and municipal court convictions involving drugs, alcohol or violence that will disqualify a citizen from a conceal and carry permit. Those local databases also include mental health contacts, 911 calls that do not result in an arrest, a history of aggressive driving, juvenile arrest records, plea agreements that result in deferred sentences, restraining orders in civil cases, and reports that a person is a danger to himself or others, all factors considered when issuing a permit.
Thanks to the NRA, none of this local information is stored in national databases. That means that non-residents cannot get a concealed-carry permit in the state, because there is simply no way for local sheriffs to get access to this kind of information held by other states, which they must have access to in order to comply with the issuing guidelines of the law.
The ruling is also significant because it comes from the gun-friendly 10th Circuit, which encompasses the red states of Kansas, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming in addition to Colorado and New Mexico. Should the Supreme Court review the decision, that is a fact that will be noticed. Also, the decision heavily relies on Heller, a decision many saw as an expansion of Second Amendment rights and of which conservatives are quite proud. For the Supreme Court to strike the Tenth Circuit ruling it would almost have to go back and undo or explain away parts of the Heller decision. The result would likely be as galvanizing to the gun control movement as the Citizens United movement has been to the progressive movement.
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Photo from robertnelson via flickr.