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Attorneys general of 19 states join in urging Supreme Court gun decision

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The top law enforcement officers from a number of U.S. states joined a national gun rights group in urging the United States Supreme Court to make a clear and precise decision regarding Americans' constitutional rights to defend themselves, their families and their property, according to a national civil rights group on Friday.

According to the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), the attorneys general of 19 states submitted a joint amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief in the case of Drake v. Jerejian, requesting that the members of the U.S. Supreme Court make the determination whether or not the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment secures Americans the right to carry handguns outside of their homes for self-defense.

In the amicus brief, penned by Wyoming's Attorney General Peter K. Michael, the 19 attorneys general note that "significant splits of authority have developed in both the federal and state courts as they have tried to answer questions involving the right to keep and bear arms outside of the home," SAF officials stated.

The Supreme Court case, which has been joined by organizations such as the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, the National Rifle Association, and 34 members of the U.S. Congress, also requests that the high court clarify the standard of review governing Second Amendment claims involving restrictions on the right of law-abiding adults to carry handguns outside the home.

Drake v. Jerejian challenges New Jersey's arbitrary requirement that carry permit applicants demonstrate a "justifiable need" to carry a handgun outside the home, as does several other states and municipalities including New York City.

Wyoming Attorney General Michael is joined by his colleagues in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas,Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio,Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia.

"It is significant that so many attorneys general decided to sign on to this important brief," said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. "Their legal experience and understanding of this important constitutional and civil rights issue should carry great weight with the high court."

Gottlieb's organization, based in Bellevue, Wash., is represented by Virginia attorney Alan Gura, who has won both of the significant Supreme Court rulings on the Second Amendment, in 2008 and 2010. These victories have paved the way for numerous successful challenges of state and local limitations firearm civil rights.

According to Gottlieb and SAF:

"This case is particularly important because of all of the United States Courts of Appeal issuing rulings on the Second Amendment... only the Third Circuit, in this matter, has actually held that the Second Amendment does not secure, or even touch, the right to carry a handgun, 'the quintessential self-defense weapon.' This interpretation is in clear conflict with the decisions of other circuit [courts] and, more importantly, imperils the Second Amendment rights of all citizens.

"The case is a civil rights challenge to New Jersey’s restrictive handgun licensing scheme which allows government officials unchecked discretion in deciding who has shown adequate 'justifiable need' and may therefore exercise their Second Amendment right to carry a firearm for self-defense."

The actual amicus brief is available here.

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