A potentially key challenge to prohibitive handgun carry laws was debated last week in front of an 11-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. 

The case involves George Young, whose repeated attempts to obtain a permit going back as far as 2011 were rebuffed in Hawaii--a state where it is notoriously hard to be granted a carry permit of any sort. Young held that his denial of an application for a handgun license stepped on his Second Amendment rights to carry a loaded firearm openly for self-defense outside of the home.

Hawaii law narrowly allowed the ability to open carry to a select few — such as security guards — which the state supported in an argument. This, a 3-judge panel held in 2018, was unconstitutional. 

The case has wider ramifications than in the nation’s 50th state. As noted in the appeal from Hawaii Attorney General Robert Suzuki's office that resulted in vacating the previous court's ruling and setting the stage for last week's rehearing, “If left undisturbed, the panel’s decision will thus deprive States like Hawaii and California of the tools necessary to protect their residents from gun violence that Maryland, New Jersey, and New York have all been found to possess.”

With that, attorney Neal Katyal argued last week to the court on behalf of the state and county of Hawaii that laws going back to the 1850s-- when Hawaii was an independent country-- strictly regulated guns. 

“That tradition shows that carrying firearms in public without good cause has never been part of the right to keep and bear arms," said Katyal, arguing there is a limited may-issue mechanism in place where some non-security guards could get a permit to carry a handgun in public. 

Alan Beck, representing Mr. Young, blew that line of reasoning out of the water in the first two minutes of his argument to the court, pointing out that the same circuit previously found in their en banc decision in the Peruta may-issue case that concealed carry is not protected by the Second Amendment, leaving open carry to be the unspoken default.  

"That open carry question is squarely before this court now," said Beck, going on to point out that the county where Young lives has never issued a concealed carry permit, has complete authority on who gets a permit, and has no process for an appeal to a rejected application for a permit. In short, legal carry of almost any sort is a unicorn.

"We know that in 2018-2019, in all of Hawaii County, not a single private citizen had either an open or concealed carry permit," he said, asking the panel to find that the licensing scheme doesn't square with the right to keep and bear arms as it gives no avenue for carry, and thus no ability for armed self-defense outside of the home. 

"The County of Hawaii's policy is to deny all handgun carry permit applications," Beck told Guns.com in a statement. "I believe that the Court will find that the County's de facto ban on handgun carry is unconstitutional based on the questions I received at argument."

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