(Reuters) – A federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment protects the right to openly carry a gun in public for self-defense, rejecting a claim by Hawaii officials that the right only applies to guns kept at home.
The ruling by a three-judge panel on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, makes the San Francisco-based court the sixth U.S. circuit court to interpret the Second Amendment this way and could set the issue on a path toward the U.S. Supreme Court, which has not taken up a major gun rights case since 2010.
The extent of the right to gun ownership is one of the most hotly contested debates in the United States, where mass shootings have become almost commonplace.
In a split two-to-three decision on Tuesday, the panel found Hawaii infringed on the rights of plaintiff George Young when it twice denied him a permit to carry a gun outside.
“We do not take lightly the problem of gun violence,” Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote in Tuesday’s ruling. “But, for better or for worse, the Second Amendment does protect a right to carry a firearm in public for self-defense.”
The 9th Circuit had ruled in 2016 that the Second Amendment does not guarantee a right to carry concealed firearms in public in Peruta v. County of San Diego.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule on that decision last year.
President Donald Trump, a vocal gun rights supporter, is seeking to fill a vacant Supreme Court seat and make the court more conservative, raising the prospect that it may take up more cases in coming years.