Young v. Hawaii

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George Young, a Vietnam veteran, wants to openly carry a firearm for self‐​defense in his home state of Hawaii. Hawaii allows firearms to be openly carried only by those who are “engaged in the protection of life and property.” Young was denied his permit twice and filed suit in federal district court. Young’s suit was summarily dismissed three times before he obtained pro‐​bono counsel to appeal to the Ninth Circuit.

The Ninth Circuit, in an in‐​depth and historically rooted decision, held that the Second Amendment does in fact protect the right of law‐​abiding citizens to openly carry a firearm. The Ninth Circuit then decided to hear the case en banc—meaning every judge on the circuit will hear the case rather than the typical three‐​judge panel—but that hearing was delayed pending the Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. New York. Unfortunately, that case was dismissed by the Court as moot after the city changed its law in order to prevent a pro‐​Second Amendment decision.

Now the full Ninth Circuit is ready to hear Mr. Young’s case and Cato has joined with many Second Amendment groups and law professors on a brief discussing the original meaning of the Second Amendment and historical practice of carrying a firearm. We argue that contemporary understandings of the word “bear” are synonymous with “carry,” and that it was not limited to a military context. We also survey early colonial laws and show that carrying was common and legal. Finally, we discuss how individual Founders, such as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, carried weapons for self protection. 

The history is clear: arms were borne by common people for self‐​defense, and the Second Amendment protects that right. The Ninth Circuit should follow the panel decision, overrule the district court, and protect Young’s right to defend himself.