Conservatives have long chided the Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as the “Ninth Circus” for its overwhelmingly liberal bias. The conservative intellectual Thomas Sowell once joked back in 2003 that “One of these days, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals may declare the Constitution unconstitutional.”

Of 9th Circuit opinions that are reviewed by the Supreme Court, the majority are overturned. To be fair, however, only 0.151% of their cases are evaluated by the Supreme Court, so the sample is biased. Regardless, there’s no denying that the 9th Circuit is the most liberal court in the nation. Jimmy Carter added 15 people to the 9th Circuit, out of 23 total judges at the time (there are now 29).  A 2007 look at Judicial Common Space scores (which measure a judge’s ideology) by political scientists Lee Epstein, Andrew Martin, Jeffrey Segal, and Chad Westerland found that the Ninth Circuit was among the most liberal courts. Only the 5th circuit is more liberal.

With that fact in mind, the 9th Circuit’s recent decision to uphold open carry in Hawaii is more surprising, and it’s a positive sign for gun rights advocates. As the Washington Free Beacon reported, “A panel of judges from the Ninth Circuit court of appeals ruled on Tuesday that Hawaii’s effective ban on the open carry of guns is unconstitutional. In a 2-1 ruling, the court found that the Second Amendment protects the right to openly carry a firearm in public for the purpose of self-defense. Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain was joined by Judge Sandra S. Ikuta in the majority while Judge Richard R. Clifton dissented. The majority reversed the lower court ruling that upheld Hawaii’s effective ban on all forms of gun carry in the state.”

The judges who ruled in the majority wrote in their opinion “For better or for worse, the Second Amendment does protect a right to carry a firearm in public for self-defense… While many respectable scholars and activists might find virtue in a firearms-carry regime that restricts the right to a privileged few, ‘the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table.”

Gun rights supporters celebrated the decision:

This occurred just days after the 9th circuit blocked California’s attempt to confiscate magazines.

Despite the wave of student-led rallies for stricter gun control earlier this year, they have few policy accomplishments to show for it. That band of activists may have convinced United Airlines and Delta to sever their discount program with the NRA, or get a few of Laura Ingrahm’s sponsors to stop advertising on her show, but they haven’t changed gun laws. Gun rights advocates, meanwhile, seem to be winning, even when the odds are stacked against them.

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