Portland Loaded Gun Ban Upheld
The Oregon Supreme Court has upheld a Portland law that prohibits carrying loaded firearms in public in most circumstances.
The Emerald City has banned loaded guns for decades, as do several other municipalities in Oregon, but the statute recently came up against a Second Amendment court challenge in City of Portland v. Jonathan D. Christian.
Christian was convicted of carrying two loaded handguns, as well as other weaponry, stemming from a 2008 incident outside a convenience store. He appealed his sentence up the ladder, claiming the law violated the Oregon Constitution as well as the federal one.
The judge sidestepped weighing in on the hotly-contested issue of the right to carry a gun, instead noting that there were 14 exceptions to the loaded gun law and that it is merely a restriction on ”the manner of possession and use of firearms in public places.” Concealed carry permit holders, the judge pointed out, are among the exempt, concluding “the legislature may specifically regulate the manner of possession and use of protected weapons to promote public safety as long as the exercise of that authority does not unduly frustrate the right to bear arms guaranteed.”
The Supreme Court has been very clear in recent Second Amendment decisions: Governments can not unconditionally block people from owning firearms. The court struck down local handgun prohibitions in Washington, D.C. and Chicago in 2008 and 2010, respectively.
However, the court has yet to weigh in on whether the Second Amendment gives people the unassailable right to carry firearms outside the home. Last year the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals leaned in that direction when it threw out Illinois’ concealed carry ban, but it didn’t as far as declaring it a constitutional right.
“We are disinclined to engage in another round of historical analysis to determine whether eighteenth-century America understood the Second Amendment to include a right to bear guns outside the home,” Judge Richard Posner wrote in the opinion. “The Supreme Court has decided that the amendment confers a right to bear arms for self-defense, which is as important outside the home as inside. The theoretical and empirical evidence (which overall is inconclusive) is consistent with concluding that a right to carry firearms in public may promote self-defense.”
However, the 10th Circuit had a different take on the issue, ruling that non-residents did not have a right to get a concealed carry permit in Colorado and stating “We first ask whether the Second Amendment provides the right to carry a concealed firearm. We conclude that it does not.”
The Supreme Court could eventually settle the issue by ruling one way or the other. In the meantime, courts are relying on its acknowledgement that Second Amendment rights are not absolute and that governments may impose reasonable restrictions.
“The law is now clear that the government may not completely disarm law-abiding, responsible citizens,” notes a statement written by law professors Geoffrey R. Stone of the University of Chicago and Adam Winkler of UCLA and signed by over 50 other constitutional law professors. “The Court also made clear, however, that many gun regulations remain constitutionally permissible.”
Which we know now includes, barring further notice from higher authority, Portland’s loaded gun law.