Federal appeals court upholds Hawaii statute limiting open carry of firearms in public
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Federal appeals court upholds Hawaii statute limiting open carry of firearms in public

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Wednesday upheld Hawaii’s firearm-licensing law, which restricts open-carry licenses to those who can demonstrate “the urgency or the need” to carry a firearm, that they are of good moral character, and are “engaged in the protection of life and property.”

The appellant, George Young, applied for a license twice in 2011. Hawaii County Police Chief denied both of Young’s applications, finding that Young failed to show either an “exceptional case or demonstrated urgency” to carry a firearm. In response, Young challenged Hawaii’s firearm-licensing law under the Second Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court upheld Hawaii’s firearm-licensing law, so Young appealed to the Ninth Circuit. A divided panel reversed in part and dismissed in part the district court’s decision. Hawaii appealed, and the Ninth Circuit granted rehearing en banc to “determine whether Hawaii’s regulation of open carry violated the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.”

The Ninth Circuit reviewed Hawaii’s longstanding prohibitions on open carry and determined that such regulations fall outside “the historical scope of the Second Amendment.” The court further reviewed its previous decision in Peruta v. County of San Diego, which “held that individuals do not have a Second Amendment right to carry concealed weapons in public.” Additionally, the court reviewed the US Supreme Court’s decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller, and McDonald v. City of Chicago.

Judge Bybee wrote the majority opinion, stating that “the Second Amendment does not guarantee an unfettered, general right to openly carry arms in public for individual self-defense. Accordingly, Hawaii’s firearms-carry scheme is lawful.” Bybee also explained that the court rejected Young’s due process argument because he failed to seek review of his application denials before filing suit. Thus, “his procedural due process claim was speculative.”

Judges Nelson and O’Scannlain filed dissenting opinions. Nelson wrote that “there should be no dispute that any law or regulation that restricts gun ownership only to security guards violates the Second Amendment.” O’Scannlain wrote that Hawaii’s firearm-licensing law “destroy[s] the core right to carry a gun for self-defense outside the home.” Lastly, O’Scannlain wrote that the Ninth Circuit is the “first and only court of appeals to hold that public carry falls entirely outside the scope of the Amendment’s protections.”