Supreme Court Refuses Potentially Landmark Gun-Control Case

Article excerpt

A Maryland man appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the state's gun-control laws are too restrictive. The case was seen as a potentially pivotal examination of Second Amendment rights, but the Supreme Court refused it.

The US Supreme Court on Monday turned down the appeal of a Maryland man who said the state's restrictive gun-permit law violated his constitutional right to carry a firearm in public for self defense.

The case, Williams v. Maryland, was being closely followed because it might have set the stage for another potential landmark Second Amendment decision by the high court.

The justices did not explain why they rejected the appeal, but the action does not end the possibility of a gun-rights case reaching the court this term. The Supreme Court is awaiting briefs in at least one other gun case, and several other Second Amendment cases are working their way to the Supreme Court.

In 2008, the justices ruled that Americans have a right to possess arms in the home for self defense - a ruling that prevents government from enacting overly restrictive gun-control regulations. In 2010, the court announced that Second Amendment rights apply not only in federal jurisdictions but throughout the country in state and local jurisdictions as well.

The Williams case asked the court to extend its analysis one step further. Lawyers for Williams urged the justices to use the case to clarify whether the Second Amendment's right to "keep and bear arms" free from overly restrictive regulations applies beyond the home to carrying weapons in public for personal self defense.

The issue is significant because a high court decision would erect a framework for future gun regulations at the national, state, and local level, which could lead to new laws as well as challenges to existing ones.

"This case presents perhaps the most critical issue of all: are the words 'bear arms' devoid of meaning, thereby limiting the Second Amendment to the right to 'keep arms' within the four walls of one's dwelling?" the Williams brief asked.

"If so, it is an extraordinarily constricted constitutional right, that bears little resemblance to the robust right clearly envisioned by the Framers and exercised throughout American history."

Maryland responded that its tough gun-permit requirements do not violate the Constitution.

"The Second Amendment does not bar a state from requiring residents to obtain a permit before carrying handguns outside the home," wrote Assistant Attorney General Brian Kleinbord. "Not surprisingly, no lower court has held to the contrary."

The dispute stemmed from the October 2007 arrest of Charles Williams for possessing a firearm outside his home without having first obtained a permit from the state.

Mr. Williams was arrested after a police officer noticed him rummaging through a backpack near a bus stop. …