- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Supreme Court on Friday will consider whether to wade into the escalating legal brawl over whether people have a constitutional right to carry a firearm outside of the home, as gun rights advocates push the high court to settle how far the Second Amendment goes in protecting the right to bear arms.

Justices will meet in private conference to weigh whether to hear a challenge to New Jersey’s mandate that citizens must show a “justifiable need” to carry a gun in public for protection.

Gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association, which has filed an amicus brief in the case, want the high court to strike down the law and go a step further by clarifying how far the Second Amendment goes in establishing an individual’s right to carry a firearm outside the home.

“With the split among the Courts of Appeal continuing to develop, we hope the Supreme Court will make clear what the American people already know — that the Second Amendment allows a law-abiding citizen to carry a concealed firearm in public for self-defense,” said David Lehman, general counsel for the NRA’s lobbying arm.

The high court struck down the District of Columbia’s longstanding handgun ban in 2008, then followed it up with a 2010 ruling that established a personal constitutional right to bear arms for self-defense.

But since then, states have been left trying to figure out just how far those rulings go, as the justices have declined to hear other challenges to state laws restricting gun use in specific ways.

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In February, the high court declined to take up two NRA-backed cases that questioned whether the federal government and the states can impose purchase or concealed-carry restrictions on people under the age of 21, and a third case that questioned a federal law that restricts non-gun dealers from making sales across state lines.

This latest case involves John Drake, who runs a Sussex County business that owns and services ATMs, as well as other plaintiffs. Mr. Drake applied for a handgun permit from New Jersey in 2010 but was rejected on the grounds that he did not have a “justifiable need” to carry one.

A district court and then an appeals court have sided with the state, saying the justifiable need requirement is not an undue burden within the scope of the Second Amendment.

New York and Maryland laws were also upheld by appeals courts. But Illinois’s concealed-carry law was struck down by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in December 2012 as too sweeping.

In the New Jersey case, the plaintiffs point to a February ruling by a panel of the 9th Circuit in California that struck down San Diego’s law requiring concealed-carry permit applicants to demonstrate “good cause” as to why they need a gun for personal safety.

Gun-rights advocates say the split decisions mean it’s time the Supreme Court weigh in.

But John J. Hoffman, acting attorney general of New Jersey, said in a brief that the San Diego law is materially different from New Jersey’s and that the 3rd Circuit appeals court has already concluded “that New Jersey’s justifiable need standard is a longstanding, presumptively lawful regulation that operates as an exception to the Second Amendment.”

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