LOS ANGELES (AP) - A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the Second Amendment protects the right to openly carry a gun in public for self-defense.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that Hawaiian officials had violated George Young's rights when he was denied a permit to openly carry a loaded gun in public to protect himself.
The decision reversed a lower court ruling that sided with officials who said the amendment only applied to guns kept in homes.
"We do not take lightly the problem of gun violence, which the State of Hawaii 'has understandably sought to fight,'" Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain wrote. "But, for better or for worse, the Second Amendment does protect a right to carry a firearm in public for self-defense."
Gun rights is one of the most hotly debated issues in U.S. political and legal circles with any loosening or restriction of access to guns often leading to a court battle.
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down gun ownership bans in the District of Columbia and Chicago in 2008 and 2010, but has been reluctant in recent years to take on such cases, turning away challenges to gun restrictions.
Judge Richard Clifton noted in his dissent that several appeals courts have come down on different sides of whether guns can be openly carried in public, saying: "There is no single voice on this question." He suggested the Supreme Court will inevitably have to weigh in.
Clifton, who like the other judges was appointed by a Republican president, criticized the majority for going "astray in several respects" and disregarding that states such as Hawaii have long regulated and limited the public carrying of guns, which he said did not undermine the core of the Second Amendment.
Tuesday's ruling comes two years after a full panel of the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit ruled that there's no right to carry concealed guns in public. That June 2016 ruling struck down a 2-1 panel opinion that was also written by O'Scannlain.