The rulings keep coming

Even at bleak periods in the defense of gun rights, we still can find moments of hope.  This is to be expected in a nation as divided as ours, with some states solidly on our side and some—including the largest, unfortunately—that are determined to go the other way.

Moments like these are often given to us by the courts, reminding us that rights are too often not the will of the majority.  Two such cases have come in the last few days.  And to make the rulings sweeter, they were handed down in courts in California and Washington, D.C.

The D.C. ruling is the more obvious, basically taking the Second Amendment at its word.  U.S. District Judge Richard Leon has found unconstitutional the city’s regulation limiting carry licenses to people who can show what city officials regard as a good reason.  This is only one step along the way, since much like Chicago’s continual balking of court rulings, D.C. imposed the present licensing system after its ban on legal carry had been overturned in 2014.

The plaintiffs in this case bring into focus exactly why we have a protected right to carry firearms.  The firearms group, Pink Pistols, joined Matthew Grace to challenge D.C.’s licensing rules.  This group has the purpose of encouraging LGBT Americans to exercise their right to own and carry guns for self-defense.  And as Gwendolyn Patton, a representative of the group, pointed out in response to the ruling that sexual orientation is a common cause of “bias-motivated crimes.”  If rights mean anything, they are a statement that we each must be able to be who we are without seeking permission from others, that we each deserve the autonomy of ourselves, and for D.C., the capital of our nation, to deny this is a fundamental violation.  The court’s ruling here, as I say, is obvious, though too often not expected.

By contrast, the ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is the more interesting.  In that case, Teixeira, et al. v. County of Alameda, three businessmen—John Teixeira, Steve Nobriga and Gary Gamaza—came up against Alameda County’s zoning ordinance prohibiting gun stores within five hundred feet of residential zones, schools, or day-care centers.  Zoning regulations are rarely thrilling, but the key aspect of this case is a recognition that gun rights go beyond the mere possession of a firearm.  The D.C. ruling acknowledges the right to carry outside our homes, and the Ninth Circuit has found that commerce in guns is something that the Second Amendment protects.  As Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain wrote, “The right of law-abiding citizens to keep and to bear arms is not a ‘second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees that we have held to be incorporated into the Due Process Clause.’”

Given the current uncertainties with the Supreme Court, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen when these cases work their ways to the top, but the fact that two separate courts, in regions traditionally oppositional to gun rights, are treating the Heller and McDonald rulings as established precedent and basing important protections on them.  While we can’t rest on our laurels, we can celebrate the shift in judicial understanding toward a respect for gun rights.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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