Updating our report from Feb. 23, on Monday morning the Supreme Court declined to consider two National Rifle Association cases on whether young adults have full Second Amendment rights, and whether those rights for any Americans–young or old–extend outside the home.
As Breitbart News previously reported, NRA v. ATF is a case challenging a provision in federal law that forbids law-abiding adults ages 18-20 from buying handguns at a federally-licensed firearm dealer, such as a local gun shop. Adults under age 21 can buy rifles or shotguns, and they can own handguns, and they can buy those handguns from any other source–including for example a questionable person who lives down the street. However, they cannot buy from the heavily-regulated and heavily-audited federally-licensed dealer who would be required to perform a background check before selling such a gun and keep a record of the sale in case the gun were ever used in a crime at a later date. Many experts considered this federal provision–a holdover from an earlier anti-gun time–to be irrational and a prime target to be struck down by a federal court.
The second case is NRA v. McCraw, which raised the additional issue of whether the Second Amendment extends outside the home, such that law-abiding adults have a right to carry, for example, a handgun in a holster when walking down the street. The Supreme Court held in 2008 in D.C. v. Heller that the Second Amendment is an individual right for private citizens to own handguns and other common firearms. In the 2010 case McDonald v. Chicago, the Supreme Court found the right to bear arms is a fundamental right that courts can enforce against state and local governments. But both of those cases involved the right to keep a firearm at home for self-defense and did not directly address how it applies outside the home, or even if it applies at all to public places.
The NRA’s lead lawyer in the first case was former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, who argued before the Supreme Court in both Heller and McDonald. The NRA’s lawyer in the second case was former U.S. Assistant Attorney General Charles Cooper from the Reagan administration, who has been one of the top constitutional lawyers on the Second Amendment for a quarter-century.
These denials come as major disappointments to gun owners. As is customary, the Court gave no comment when it denied these cases, which were included as part of a list almost 20 pages long of hundreds of other cases denied review by the High Court, including denial of a third Second Amendment case, Lane v. Holder. Four of the nine justices must vote in favor of a petitioner, called granted a writ of certiorari, to take a case.
Although many hoped the Court would take one of these cases, it should be noted that as Breitbart News reported on Feb. 16, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granting the NRA and gun owners a major victory in Peruta v. County of San Diego, where a Reagan-appointed judge wrote for the appeals court that the Second Amendment does indeed extend beyond the home. This ruling struck down San Diego’s policy authorized by California law requiring a citizen to show “good cause”–meaning special circumstances–before they can be permitted to have a gun in public.
Two other federal appeals courts have previously declined to extend the Second Amendment beyond the home. It is typical Supreme Court practice to allow for such a “circuit split” to emerge before the justices take up an issue, so there is a significant chance that Peruta could now go to the Supreme Court in 2015 or 2016.
Ken Klukowski is senior legal analyst for Breitbart News and on faculty at Liberty University School of Law. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.