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

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One of the next big questions is what exactly the majority justices meant when they wrote in the Heller decision that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right “to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.”

Some scholars have concluded that in addition to striking down a Washington, D.C., ban on handguns, the court declared that all Americans enjoy a right to keep guns in their home and to carry guns in public for self-defense.

The Second Amendment speaks of a right to keep and bear arms, not just keep them, they say.

Others dispute this expansive reading of the Second Amendment.

The Westchester, N.Y., gun owners sought to test that view in federal court in New York. They argued that the state could not erect a special requirement to assess a need for self-defense to obtain a conceal-carry permit.

A federal judge disagreed, ruling that Second Amendment rights do not extend beyond the home. The judge also ruled that the state regulation was within the Legislature’s power as a legitimate policy choice.

A panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals also upheld the New York regulation. The appeals court rejected the argument that citizens enjoy a “right” to carry a handgun for self-defense.

“There is no right to engage in self-defense with a firearm until the objective circumstances justify the use of deadly force,” the court said.

In urging the high court to take up the case, Alexandria, Va., lawyer Alan Gura said New York was treating the carrying of handguns for self-defense not as a constitutional right but as an administrative privilege.

“It is difficult to imagine federal courts sustaining the denial of the right to speak, the right to worship, or the right to terminate a pregnancy whenever the government asserts that these activities contravene the public interest, and thus may not be conducted absent an extraordinary ‘proper cause,’ ” Mr. Gura wrote in his brief.

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