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February 24, 2013

Landmark Appellate Decision on Gun Rights: Opinion Breakdown

by Sam Ranard
By John Phillips

In February 2010, gun enthusiast, Gray Peterson filed suit in federal district court against the ex officio sheriff of the City and County of Denver and the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety, alleging that Colorado’s licensing regime for concealed handguns violates the Privileges and Immunities Clause, the Second Amendment, and the Fourteenth Amendment.

Click here for the published court opinion

Peterson was a resident of the State of Washington. At the time he filed his complaint, Peterson held a concealed weapons permit issued by the State of Washington and a second concealed weapons permit issued by the State of Florida. Peterson claimed to be a frequent visitor to Denver, and sought to carry a firearm when he visits the city. Towards that end, Peterson applied for a CHL with the Denver sheriff, which was denied because he does not meet the criteria set forth in Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-203, as he was not a resident. Peterson’s permits were not reciprocal with Colorado. So, he sued. And lost.


With respect to Peterson’s claims against the Denver sheriff, the United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit (the Appellate Court under the Supreme Court) concluded Friday, February 22, 2013 that the carrying of concealed firearms is not protected by the Second Amendment or the Privileges and Immunities Clause. In Robertson v. Baldwin, 165 U.S. 275 (1897), the Supreme Court stated in dicta that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms is not infringed by laws prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons.” Id. at 281-82.

This is a very import decision to establishing that (1) carrying a concealed weapon is subject to heightened government regulation (unlike a driver’s license, for instance); (2) concealed carry is not protected under the Second Amendment; and (3) the State’s ability to monitor licensees’ good character, competency and integrity, including their mental fitness, composure, maturity of judgment, and safe or unsafe habits are tantamount.

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