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What's the Law on Gun Rights Outside the Home?

The U.S. Supreme Court has firmly established that the Second Amendment protects the rights of Americans to own guns, and at least possess those guns inside their homes with few exceptions. But what about taking a gun outside the home?

Whether a person can legally walk outside their home with a gun is a different issue entirely, and one that states can regulate more easily. At least, that's what SCOTUS seems to be saying by refusing to hear the appeal of the Ninth Circuit decision, in Peruta v. County of San Diego. The Ninth Circuit upheld California's "good cause" requirement and explained that "the Second Amendment does not preserve or protect a right of a member of the general public to carry concealed firearms in public."

Good Cause for Carrying a Weapon

Some states restrict gun possession outside the home by requiring individuals who want to carry a weapon to obtain a permit. Depending on the state, and how one wishes to carry the weapon, either openly or concealed, the permitting requirements can vary.

For example, in California, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island, a person seeking a concealed carry permit must have "good cause" to be approved. Typically, self-defense without a particular reason will not qualify. For instance, if a person makes large cash deposits or withdrawals for their employer, or is a retired prison guard or law enforcement officer fearing retaliation, good cause will likely be found.

Open Carry, Wider Breadth

While gun control laws vary from state to state, there is an important distinction that some states draw between openly carried guns and concealed guns. In many states, even those that require a permit to carry a concealed weapon, a hand gun or rifle may still be carried openly in public.

Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Washington D.C. all prohibit the open carry of rifles and handguns. California, New York, Rhode Island, and South Carolina only prohibit the open carry of handguns, but allow rifles. However, in every state, there are certain restrictions on where firearms can be openly carried. For example, primary schools and government buildings generally do not allow individuals to openly carry firearms of any kind, and sometimes even can restrict permitted concealed weapons as well. Private businesses can also restrict gun carriers from entering their business.

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