In a ruling sure to stoke the gun debate in the United States, a federal appeals court on Thursday said Americans have no constitutional right to carry concealed weapons in public.
A divided 11-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, said counties in California could require people seeking permits to carry concealed weapons to show "good cause" when submitting their request.
The decision reinforces existing California law that requires applicants to have a valid reason to carry a firearm.
"We hold that the Second Amendment does not preserve or protect a right of a member of the general public to carry concealed firearms in public," the judges said in 7-4 vote.
The court's decision, which affects nine Western states, overturned an earlier ruling by three judges on the same panel who struck down a policy applied by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.
California's Attorney General Kamala Harris, whose office had appealed the initial ruling, welcomed Thursday's decision as a sensible move in the fight against gun violence.
"The devastating impact gun violence has on our communities underscores the need for common sense gun safety laws," Harris said.
"The court's decision is a victory for public safety and sensible gun safety laws.
"The ruling ensures that local law enforcement leaders have the tools they need to protect public safety by determining who can carry loaded, concealed weapons in our communities."
However the National Rifle Association, a powerful lobby group, blasted the ruling as "out of touch" with reality.
"This decision will leave good people defenseless, as it completely ignores the fact that law-abiding Californians who reside in counties with hostile sheriffs will now have no means to carry a firearm outside the home for personal protection," Chris Cox, the NRA's legislative chief, said in a statement.
He added that the ruling underscores the importance of the 2016 presidential election.
"It is imperative that we elect a president who will appoint Supreme Court justices who respect the Second Amendment and law-abiding citizens’ right to self-defense," he said.
The case before the appeals court stemmed from lawsuits involving two California men -- one from San Diego county and the other from Yolo county -- who in 2009 were denied licenses to carry concealed firearms in public for failing to show "good cause."
Thursday's ruling could end up being appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.
Gun violence is a hot-button issue in the United States where readily-available firearms claim about 30,000 lives each year.
Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, has called for "comprehensive gun safety reform," while her Republican rival Donald Trump has been endorsed by the NRA.