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Supreme Court declines to clarify gun rights question

The US Supreme Court declined on Monday to take up a potentially important gun rights case, which could have established guideposts for future gun regulations at the local, state, and national levels.

By Staff writer / November 28, 2011

Joe Pucci, right, a conceal carry advocate and Virginia Tech freshman, talks with no guns on campus opponents during a Virginia Citizens Defense League rally and counter-demonstration on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va.

Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times/AP

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WASHINGTON

The US Supreme Court declined Monday to take up a potentially important gun rights case examining whether a federal regulation banning loaded firearms from vehicles in a government park violated the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

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Lawyers for a Virginia man had asked the justices to examine a question left largely unresolved in the high court’s two prior landmark rulings identifying the scope and substance of Second Amendment protections. The question is: Does the Second Amendment guarantee a right to bear arms in public for personal protection?

The court dismissed the case in a one-line order without comment. The action leaves lower court rulings intact and postpones the prospect of high court clarification on a key gun rights issue.

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment establishes a fundamental right of law-abiding individuals to keep a handgun in their home for self-protection. In 2010, the high court extended that ruling to apply Second Amendment guarantees beyond federal enclaves like Washington, D.C., to all state and local jurisdictions.

The dismissed appeal, Masciandaro v. US (10-11212), had asked the court to examine whether Americans have a right to carry loaded weapons in public places for self defense. 

How the justices answered that question would have established guideposts for future gun regulations at the local, state, and national levels of government.

In the 2008 decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, the court said that gun rights are not unlimited. The court said there is no right to “carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

Gun rights advocates say that statement confirms a right to carry at least some weapons, in some manner, for some purpose.

The high court also said that “laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places” would not necessarily violate the Constitution. Gun rights advocates counter that the statement, again, suggests that a right to carry firearms must therefore exist in non-sensitive places.

The rejected appeal stemed from the June 2008 arrest of Sean Masciandaro for carrying a loaded handgun in his car on national park land. Mr. Masciandaro and his girlfriend were sleeping in his car which was parked improperly in a lot on park land along the Potomac River near Alexandria, Va.

A US Park Police officer woke Mr. Masciandaro by tapping on the window. When Masciandaro produced his driver’s license, the officer noticed a large knife protruding from under the front seat. The officer asked Masciandaro if he had any other weapons. When he answered that he also had a loaded handgun, the officer placed Masciandaro under arrest.

Masciandaro said he often slept in his car while traveling on business and that he kept the gun for self-defense. The park where he was arrested was only 20 miles from his home in Woodbridge, Va.

Masciandaro was convicted of violating the federal regulation, and fined $150.

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