The Peruta vs. County of San Diego case was a big win for the Second Amendment that happened in, of all places, the well-known liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Here the Cato Institute’s Walter Olson explains the decision and its possible implications.
California law forbids the carrying of firearms in public places without a license and provides that the issuance of such a license requires “good cause.” San Diego County, as part of its implementation of that law, has set a number of restrictive policies on what it will consider good cause, which must be exceptional circumstances (“distinguish[ed]… from the mainstream”), and it specifies that concern for “one’s personal safety alone is not considered good cause.”
That’s a policy in considerable tension with the language of the Second Amendment, which protects individuals’ right not only to “keep” arms, but also to “bear” them. What does the verb “bear” mean in this context? That has given rise to considerable dispute, and some federal courts, such as the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, appear to believe that it provides very little protection for individuals’ right to possess guns outside the home. In a case last year by the name of Drake v. Filko – now the subject of a certiorari petition to the Supreme Court, as Ilya explained yesterday – the Third Circuit upheld a regulatory regime under which “virtually nobody in New Jersey can use a handgun to defend themselves outside their home.”
Today the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals stepped forward to defend the individual rights that the Third Circuit would not. It ruled that “San Diego County’s ‘good cause’ permitting requirement impermissibly infringes on the Second Amendment right to bear arms in lawful self-defense.” It emphasized, as the Supreme Court had done in Heller, that the individual right in question is compatible with considerable regulation of such matters as the carrying of firearms in sensitive places (government buildings), by persons of questionable capacity, and so forth.