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Supreme Court declines potential major gun rights case, leaving limits intact

A New York law requires residents who want to carry a concealed handgun in public to demonstrate a need for self-protection beyond that of the general public. The Supreme Court turned aside a gun rights challenge to that law.

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The steps of the Supreme Court are seen on March 26.

Joshua Roberts/Reuters

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The US Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up a potential major gun-rights case testing whether the Second Amendment protects a right to carry handguns for self-defense outside the home.

The justices turned aside without comment a challenge to a New York law that requires residents who want to carry a concealed handgun in public to first demonstrate a need for self-protection beyond that of the general public.

A federal appeals court upheld the law. The high court action on Monday allows that decision and its legal precedent to remain in place in New York and Connecticut.

Five gun owners in New York’s Westchester County filed suit in federal court after they were denied concealed-carry licenses because they were deemed unable to prove to the state they had “proper cause” to carry a concealed handgun.

The gun owners argued that as law-abiding citizens, they enjoyed a constitutional right to carry a handgun for protection and could not be required to demonstrate a special need to the government to obtain permission to exercise the right.

Some saw the case as a potential landmark and as a natural follow-up to the court’s landmark Second Amendment decisions handed down in 2008 and 2010.

Others suggested that in light of the tragic mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the ongoing debate in Congress over gun-control measures, the justices might decide that the timing was not right to examine such a case.  

In 2008, a five-justice majority declared in District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment guarantees a fundamental right to keep guns in the home for self-protection. And in 2010, the court ruled 5 to 4 that the amendment applies to all potential gun regulations in the United States, including those enacted by state and local governments.

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