The Lawletter Vol 38 No 3
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), that the Second Amendment provides citizens with an individual right to possess firearms, striking down a District of Columbia law that prohibited keeping guns in homes for self‑defense, a number of states enacted new measures to restrict the carrying of guns in public. In New York, for example, the legislature enacted a law requiring an applicant to show that he or she had a "proper cause"—a special need for self-protection—to obtain a license to carry a concealed handgun in public. N.Y. Penal Law § 400.00(2)(f). This law was upheld by the Second Circuit against attacks based on the Second Amendment by plaintiffs who had unsuccessfully sought a license to carry a concealed handgun, as the court found that the law was substantially related to the State's interest in public safety and crime prevention. Kachalsky v. County of Westchester, 701 F.3d 81 (2d Cir. 2012).
Similar measures enacted in other jurisdictions have met with mixed reactions. For example, Illinois enacted statutes that generally prohibited the carrying of guns in public, but the Seventh Circuit found that those laws violated the Second Amendment right to bear arms for self‑defense outside the home. Moore v. Madigan, 702 F.3d 933 (7th Cir. 2012). However, the Fourth Circuit recently upheld a newly enacted Maryland statute that required applicants to demonstrate "a good and substantial reason to wear, carry, or transport a handgun, such as a finding that the permit is necessary as a reasonable precaution against apprehended danger." Woollard v. Gallagher, 712 F.3d 865, 2013 WL 1150575, at *3 (4th Cir. 2013).
Despite these conflicting opinions in the courts of appeals, the Supreme Court recently declined to accept for review a petition for certiorari filed by the unsuccessful plaintiffs in the Kachalsky case, thus leaving it for the time being to the lower courts to define the precise scope of the right recognized for the first time in Heller.