WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) - The Supreme Court refused Monday to consider any new
cases on gun rights, including the ability of 18- to 20-year-olds to buy
The decision, however, does not preclude the court
eventually agreeing to consider the next big legal issue in the national
debate over guns: whether the right to keep a gun at home for
self-defense extends to public places.
In fact, a federal appeals
court panel's divided ruling this month in a California case makes it
more likely that the question of guns outside the home will be heading
to the high court soon.
Ever since Justice Antonin Scalia wrote
for a divided court in 2008 that the Second Amendment to the
Constitution protects the right to possess guns at home, the question of
public places has been looming. Many states impose restrictions, such
as requiring a demonstrated need to carry a gun, whether concealed or in
plain sight. Most lower courts have upheld those restrictions.
date, the biggest split from that trend involved an Illinois law that
was much more restrictive than those in other states. Its ban on
carrying concealed weapons in nearly all circumstances was struck down
by a 7th Circuit appeals court panel. Rather than appealing to the
Supreme Court, however, the state amended the law to allow for public
possession, with restrictions.
The question for the court to
answer, eventually, is whether such restrictions are constitutional. The
high court has batted down several petitions in recent years from
firearms groups rather than answer that question. After the December
2012 school shootings in Newtown, Conn., the issue became more
A decision earlier this month by a
three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals changes the
equation. The majority opinion struck down San Diego County's
restrictions as a violation of Second Amendment rights. It may be
reviewed by the full appeals court, but if the ruling holds, it would
represent a clear split with other appeals court rulings that have
"The Second Amendment does require that the
states permit some form of carry for self-defense outside the home," the
panel said. "States may not destroy the right to bear arms in public
under the guise of regulating it."
The petitions denied Monday
focused on gun rights for 18- to 20-year-olds and challenges to laws
that restrict interstate gun transfers.
Soon, however, the court
will consider a petition that presents the issue squarely. Opponents of
New Jersey's restrictions on carrying guns in public have asked the
justices to overrule a 3rd Circuit appeals court ruling in Drake v. Jerejian
that upheld the state law. Now that the 9th Circuit has ruled the other
way, either case could provide a Supreme Court showdown.