Statutory Restrictions on Concealed Carry: A Five-Circuit Shoot Out

April 1, 2015

In District of Columbia v. Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court clarified a citizen’s core Second Amendment right to keep a firearm at home; however, the Court left open the question of how the Second Amendment applies beyond the home. Since Heller, lower courts have struggled to determine the constitutionality of concealed carry laws in light of this new understanding of the Second Amendment.

Many states have enacted laws that restrict a citizen’s ability to obtain a concealed carry permit, and some of the restrictions are not controversial, such as the requirements to be above a certain age and have a clean criminal record. However, concealed carry laws also involve more contentious requirements, such as New Jersey’s “justifiable need” and New York’s “good cause” requirements. One concealed carry law reviewed by lower courts was so restrictive that it amounted to a full ban on carrying firearms in public. Citizens who have been denied concealed carry permits challenged the constitutionality of these laws.

This Note summarizes five federal circuits’ decisions regarding such challenges to statutory restrictions on concealed carry of handguns. Three of these circuit courts found the laws constitutional, while two held that the laws were unconstitutional. After this Note considers how each court reached its decision and why these courts reached differing results, it ultimately evaluates and critiques the circuit court opinions.

April 2015

No. 5