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Supreme Court passes on gun rights case

Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Fla., joins Andrea Mitchell Reports to discuss the debate over gun control legislation.

The United States Supreme Court has declined to take up the hottest question about gun rights now dividing the nation's courts: is there a constitutional right to carry a gun outside the home?

The justices today passed up a challenge brought by five residents of New York's Westchester County to a state law that forbids carrying a gun unless a person desiring to do so can show "proper cause" -- some special need for protection that goes beyond a general desire for self-defense. Those who can demonstrate that need can be granted a license to carry a firearm. The federal appeals courts are split on whether the Second Amendment provides a right to carry a gun in public.

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In striking down an Illinois law that banned the concealed carrying of a gun, an appeals court in the Midwest said "the Second Amendment right to bear arms implies a right to carry a loaded gun outside the home." But other federal courts have gone in the opposite direction, upholding the New York law as well as one in Maryland that requires gun owners to show "a good and substantial reason" for carrying a handgun. California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and New Jersey have similarly restrictive laws.

The Supreme Court's landmark decision on gun rights in 2008 declared that the Constitution provides an individual right to own a gun, not a right granted simply to organized militias.  But the ruling dealt only with the right to keep a gun at home for self defense. Though the court took a pass today on it today, the issue is bound to return, requiring the justices to consider whether that right applies outside the home as well and, if it does, how much state and local laws can restrict it.