October 19, 2017

The Second Amendment grants citizens the right to bear is printed in black and white in the Bill of Rights, which is an addendum to the Constitution. Whether our forefathers intended for that to include the concealed carrying of a weapon is not really spelled out. More than likely, there were pistols small enough to be concealed on one’s person back in revolutionary times but that is not really the issue. The issue is what is meant by the right to bear arms. Does that mean to carry a rifle out in the open or concealed on your person? Does that mean that you can own a firearm for your own private use on your own private property or does it mean you can own a firearm and carry it anywhere you like?

Our Second Amendment right is not a carte blanc right. In the 2008 Supreme Court decision in the case of DC vs. Heller, it was established that an individual does have the right to possess and carry a firearm. However, the decision also stated that nothing in the opinion should be taken to cast doubt on laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places.  That last addition left room for policymakers and state law makers to set their own standards of what they will allow in the carrying of guns in public places. While the right to bear arms is secured by the Second Amendment, it is not unlimited. No one has the right to carry any weapon they choose, whichever way they want to, and for whatever purpose they feel like. A homeowner has the right to carry a gun in order to defend themselves and their home against  an intruder. A guy does not have the right to carry an AK-47 assault rifle to a town meeting strapped across his chest in order to intimidate people to vote the way that he wants them to.

While the Dc vs. Heller decision was a huge victory for pro-gun rights in establishing that the right to bear arms guaranteed individuals the right to carry a gun, it did not establish whether that included carrying a concealed weapon in public. Since that decision, there have been several significant attempts to settle that decision.

In 2013, a Colorado man who had been denied a concealed handgun license because he was not a state resident sued because he insisted that his constitutional rights had been violated. The case went to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th circuit in Denver, which ruled that there is no Second Amendment right to carry a concealed weapon in public because American has long had a tradition of bans on concealed weapons.  

Later that same year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th district in Chicago struck down an Illinois state law banning concealed weapons by ruling that the Second Amendment does protect an individual’s right to carry concealed weapons in public because the right to bear arms is as important outside the home as it is inside the home.

In California, the law states that the sherriff can only issue a concealed carry license to an indivudual that has passed a background check, firearms safety training and who has “good moral character” and a “good cause” for requesting a permit. Edward Peruta, a Vietnam veteran that lived in a trailer park was denied a concealed carry license and sued stating that his constitutional rights to bear arms were being violated. In it’s June 2016 decision in the case of Peruta vs. San Diego, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that the Constitution does not grant citizens the right to carry concealed firearms outside the home.

The conflicting rulings from different Circuit Courts reflect the difficulty in making sweeping national gun laws and leaves the question of how far does the Constitutional right of an individual to bear arms extend?  On the one hand an individual does require the ability to defend themselves and their loved ones and their home from harm. However, on the other hand, the public needs to be protected from people who would carry a concealed weapon only to do other people harm. It is this very conflict in responsibilities that illustrate why the question of the constitutional right to carry concealed in public will likely always elicit emotionally charged opinions and rear it’s ugly head in the law for many years to come.