NEW YORK — A federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment protects a right to openly carry a gun in public for self-defense, rejecting a claim by Hawaii officials that the right only applies to guns kept at home.
The extent of the right to gun ownership protected by the Second Amendment is one of the most hotly contested debates in the United States, where life has been punctuated by a steady stream of mass shootings.
The ruling issued by a three-judge panel on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, came a year after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule either way on the carrying of guns in public.
Two of the three 9th Circuit judges voted to reverse a decision by the U.S. District Court in Hawaii that state officials did not infringe on the rights of George Young, the plaintiff, in twice denying him a permit to carry a gun outside.
“We do not take lightly the problem of gun violence,” Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote in Tuesday’s ruling. “But, for better or for worse, the Second Amendment does protect a right to carry a firearm in public for self-defense.”
The decision did not change the court’s earlier ruling that the Second Amendment does not guarantee a right to carry concealed firearms in public.
Judge Richard Clifton dissented from the ruling, saying the Second Amendment does not preclude the sort of licensing rules used in Hawaii and elsewhere.
In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for the first time that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep guns at home for self-defense in District of Columbia v. Heller.
The Second Amendment was adopted in 1789 and reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”