Ruling out ad hoc interest-balancing
On February 13, 2014, just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Ninth Circuit expressed its love for constitutional order by firing an arrow through the heart of California’s arbitrary handgun carry licensing scheme. The court’s decision in Peruta v. County of San Diego1effectively struck down the Golden State’s requirement that individuals wishing to carry a handgun in public for self-defense demonstrate “good cause”2 to exercise what is, in fact, a fundamental constitutional right.3
Not surprisingly, Peruta sparked significant debate. Forty-four states already allow responsible adults to carry handguns for self-defense, openly or concealed, absent some specific reason to disarm them. But California — America’s media and cultural capital4and home to over a tenth of the nation’s population — stands as a significant outlier. The court all but invited certiorari review relating to the publicly contentious topic of carrying handguns for self-defense, punctuating its historical exegesis of the right to bear arms with pointed criticism of Second, Third, and Fourth Circuit opinions that had upheld substantially identical “proper cause,” “justifiable need,” and “good and substantial reason” requirements, respectively.5 Instead, the Ninth Circuit followed the Seventh Circuit, which had struck down Illinois’ prohibition on the carrying of defensive handguns.6
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