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Concealed Carry. AP photo. Concealed Carry. AP photo.  

New York federal appeals court upholds concealed carry restrictions

If you are a law enforcement officer who already carries a gun for your job or a transgendered person in need of a firearm for self-defense, federal courts say tough luck.

On Tuesday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld New York’s strict concealed carry laws, stating they do not violate the Second Amendment.

New York bans the open carrying of handguns by non-law enforcement personnel but issues licenses for concealed carry in certain limited situations, such as transporting a handgun to a shooting range.

In some cases, the state can issue more expansive full-carry licenses to private citizens but requires applicants to show proper cause before obtaining these licenses allowing virtually unrestricted concealed carry. Generally, one must demonstrate a special need for self-protection distinguishable from that of the general community to prove proper cause in New York.

Five plaintiffs, joined by the non-profit Second Amendment Foundation, filed suit in federal court in New York to challenge the state’s full-carry restrictions after being denied licenses. In 2011, a federal district court found New York’s restrictions constitutional under the Second Amendment, a ruling that was upheld in Tuesday’s decision.

When applying for the full-carry permits, the plaintiffs had presented different justifications to show proper cause to New York officials. One stated that he simply wanted a concealed handgun to protect himself from acts of “sporadic random violence.”

Others gave more specific explanations for their need for a full-carry permit. One plaintiff justified his application for a full-carry permit on the grounds that he is a law enforcement officer with the U.S. Coast Guard.

Another stated that she was applying for a permit based on her status as a transgender female, an orientation she believed put her at a greater risk of personal harm compared to the average New Yorker.

The Second Circuit on Tuesday justified New York’s denial of concealed carry permits to the plaintiffs on the grounds that the state did not deny the possession of handguns in the home for self-defense, which it saw as the key right conferred by the Second Amendment. Instead, since the state was regulating handgun possession outside the core area of Second Amendment protection in the home, the court gave the state’s restrictions more deference.

The court relied in part on the 2008 Supreme Court case of District of Columbia v. Heller, which held that individuals possess a right to own firearms, especially within the context of self-defense in the home. However, the Supreme Court indicated that this right is not absolute and that states could still impose restrictions in furtherance of public safety and consistent with historical precedent.

New York’s current concealed carry licensing scheme dates back to the 1911 Sullivan Law, which prohibited the concealed carry of handguns without a license. The proper cause requirement entered the law two years later.

There is no word yet on an appeal by the plaintiffs.

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