The Supreme Court declined again Monday to take up a hotly contested issue of gun rights that has divided the nation's federal and state courts.
The justices turned away challenge to a New Jersey law that sharply restricts the authority to carry a handgun in public.
In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to possess a gun at home for self-defense. Since then, the lower courts have split over the nature of gun rights outside the home, but repeated efforts to get the issue back before the Supreme Court have so far failed.
The New Jersey law at issue Monday requires proof of a justifiable need to carry a gun, defined as "the urgent necessity for self-protection, as evidenced by specific threats or previous attacks which demonstrate a special danger to the applicant's life."
Among the challengers was a Sussex County man, John Drake, who services and restocks ATM's — a job that requires him to carry large amounts of cash. His application for a permit to carry a gun was denied.
"In practice, few ordinary people can hope to obtain a New Jersey handgun carry permit," said Drake's lawyer, Alan Gura of Virginia, in legal papers that urged the Supreme Court to take the case.
Around the time the legal challenge was launched, Gura said, about 1,200 permits had been issued in a state with an adult population of nearly seven million.
But New Jersey's acting attorney general, John Hoffman, defended the law as part of a careful grid of gun regulations.
The state legislature, he said in his court brief, "long ago made the predictive judgment that widespread carrying of handguns in public would not be consistent with public safety because of the inherent danger it poses."
First published May 5 2014, 6:44 AM
Pete Williams is an NBC News correspondent based in Washington, D.C. He has been covering the Justice Department and the U.S. Supreme Court since March 1993. Williams was also a key reporter on the Microsoft anti-trust trial and Judge Jackson's decision.
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Prior to joining NBC, Williams served as a press official on Capitol Hill for many years. In 1986 he joined the Washington, D.C. staff of then Congressman Dick Cheney as press secretary and a legislative assistant. In 1989, when Cheney was named Assistant Secretary of Defense, Williams was appointed Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. While in that position, Williams was named Government Communicator of the Year in 1991 by the National Association of Government Communicators.
A native of Casper, Wyo. and a 1974 graduate of Stanford University, Williams was a reporter and news director at KTWO-TV and Radio in Casper from 1974 to 1985. Working with the Radio-Television News Directors Association, for which he served as a member of its board of directors, he successfully lobbied the Wyoming Supreme Court to permit broadcast coverage of its proceedings and twice sued Wyoming judges over pre-trial exclusion of reporters from the courtroom. For these efforts, he received a First Amendment Award from the Society of Professional Journalists.