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Monday, February 24, 2014

Supreme Court Turns Down Second Amendment Challenges to Age-Based Firearms Restrictions

At Scotusblog, Lyle Denniston writes:

The Supreme Court refused on Monday, as it has done repeatedly in recent years, to settle the issue of whether Second Amendment rights to have a gun extend beyond the home. The Court, without comment, denied three new petitions — two filed by the National Rifle Association — seeking clarification on the scope of an individual’s right to have a gun for personal self-defense. In other orders, the Court did not accept any new cases for review, although it did hold over a number of cases it had examined for potential review. 
Since the Court first ruled nearly six years ago that the Second Amendment protects a personal right to have a gun, it has issued only one further ruling — expanding that right so that it applies nationwide, to state and local gun control laws, as well as to federal laws. But, without exception, the Justices have turned aside every potential sequel, essentially leaving it to lower courts to continue to sort out variations on the right.
Two of the cases involved restrictions based on age, with one case challenging an age-based restriction on firearms purchases, and another case challenging an age-based conceal-and-carry restriction. Both laws restricted the right to purchase and carry firearms for people aged 18-20. The Court also turned down a challenge to a law barring the interstate sale of firearms by firearms dealers who do not have federal licenses.

Notably, none of these cases involve a broad challenge to conceal and carry laws, which was the subject of the Ninth Circuit's recent decision, Peruta v. City of San Diego. There, the Ninth Circuit struck down California's broad restriction on the carrying of firearms. Because Peruta involves a non-age-based attack on a firearm restriction, and because there is a solid split in authority on the extent of an individual right to carry firearms, I think that there may still be a chance that the Supreme Court will take up the question in Peruta, despite its refusal to take up the three cases today.

Peruta involves a broader question about Heller's application beyond the home, and the Ninth Circuit decided the case without resorting to any new scrutiny tests -- relying primarily on Heller's call for historical analysis and its point that a complete restriction on the right to bear arms in self-defense cannot be constitutional. The simple nature of the Peruta question, and the possibility that the Supreme Court may be able to decide the case without being forced to set forth a standard of review, means that the Court may be more likely to take up Peruta despite its refusal to take up other Second Amendment challenges.

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