The U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition for a writ of certiorari for the biggest Second Amendment case in a long time, Peruta v. California. A new decision on the Peruta case could have determined if the right to bear arms means the right to carry guns outside of the home.
By refusing this petition, the right to carry outside of the home remains a state issue. This is a let-down for gun rights advocates because the court has trended in favor of the Second Amendment, following the Heller decision. Still, the Supreme Court has been especially reluctant to hear gun rights cases, a point Justice Clarence Thomas made very clear.
“The Court’s decision to deny certiorari in this case reflects a distressing trend: the treatment of the Second Amendment as a disfavored right,” said Thomas in his dissent. Justice Neil Gorsuch joined Thomas’ dissent.
“The Constitution does not rank certain rights above others, and I do not think this Court should impose such a hierarchy by selectively enforcing its preferred rights,” he continued.
“The Court has not heard argument in a Second Amendment case in over seven years — since March 2, 2010, in McDonald v. Chicago,” said Thomas. “Since that time, we have heard argument in, for example, roughly 35 cases where the question presented turned on the meaning of the First Amendment and 25 cases that turned on the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. This discrepancy is inexcusable, especially given how much less developed our jurisprudence is with respect to the Second Amendment as compared to the First and Fourth Amendments.”
“For those of us who work in marbled halls, guarded constantly by a vigilant and dedicated police force, the guarantees of the Second Amendment might seem antiquated and superfluous. But the Framers made a clear choice: they reserved to all Americans the right to bear arms for self-defense. I do not think we should stand by idly while a State denies its citizens that right, particularly when their very lives may depend on it,” he added. “I respectfully dissent.”
NRA president Chris Cox issued the following statement after the Peruta announcement. “We are disappointed in the Court’s rejection of the appeal in Peruta v. California, which now leaves millions of law-abiding Californians with no ability to bear arms outside the home.
“As Justices Thomas and Gorsuch correctly stated, too many courts have been treating the Second Amendment as a second-class right. That should not be allowed to stand. As the Supreme Court stated in its landmark decision in Heller v. District of Columbia, the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense.
“The framers of our Constitution did not intend to limit that right to the home. We look forward to a future Court affirming that the right to keep and bear arms is as much a part of our Constitution as the other enumerated rights that it protects. We will not stop fighting until a future Court affirms this fundamental right.”
Justice Thomas was equally explicit about his stance on the right to bear arms. “I find it extremely improbable that the Framers understood the Second Amendment to protect little more than carrying a gun from the bedroom to the kitchen.”
“The relevant history appears to support this understanding,” he explained. “The panel opinion below pointed to a wealth of cases and secondary sources from England, the founding era, the antebellum period, and Reconstruction, which together strongly suggest that the right to bear arms includes the right to bear arms in public in some manner.”
“Had the en-banc Ninth Circuit answered the question actually at issue in this case, it likely would have been compelled to reach the opposite result. This Court has already suggested that the Second Amendment protects the right to carry firearms in public in some fashion,” said Thomas. “As we explained in Heller, to ‘bear arms’ means to ‘wear, bear, or carry upon the person or in the clothing or in a pocket, for the purpose of being armed and ready for offensive or defensive action in a case of conflict with another person.'”
We can’t know for sure what the Supreme Court’s motive was in choosing not to hear this case. It’s possible that the members of the court are hoping that legislators solve this problem on their own.
Currently, NRA-backed legislation to bring concealed-carry reciprocity to the whole country is working its way through Congress.
Or it could be that the Court is simply waiting for a different set of Justices to make this decision. After all this time, it will seem long overdue.