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In brief: Court upholds public guns ban

Los Angeles – Local governments have a legitimate purpose in keeping guns out of public places, a federal appeals court ruled Monday in a gun-rights case that has been in dispute for a dozen years.

Gun show promoters Russell and Sallie Nordyke brought a lawsuit after officials in Alameda County, Calif., passed an ordinance in 1999 prohibiting firearms and ammunition from public property, including the county fairgrounds where the couple had displayed and sold guns for years.

The Nordykes alleged that the county law infringed on a citizen’s constitutional right to bear arms, as well as the right to free expression in displaying the guns.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling that the ordinance was aimed at improving public safety and didn’t substantially infringe on citizens’ right to keep and bear arms on their own property for self-defense.

The Alameda ordinance didn’t prohibit gun shows “but merely declined to host them on government premises,” said the opinion written by Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain.

Search persists for stranded Scouts

Langley, Ark. – Authorities searched an Arkansas wilderness area Monday for a group of Louisiana Boy Scouts believed to be stranded behind rain-swollen waterways.

No one has heard from the six Scouts and two troop leaders since Thursday, when they arrived at the Albert Pike Recreation Area.

State police dispatched a helicopter to help locate the boys, but strong winds and low clouds forced the chopper to turn back.

Ensign’s farewell falls on few ears

Washington – Republican John Ensign of Nevada apologized Monday to an all but empty Senate chamber for his extramarital affair with a former aide and hoped aloud that his legislative record would speak as his legacy.

Ensign announced in June 2009 that he had an extramarital affair with Cynthia Hampton, a former member of his campaign staff. Amid the scandal, his parents provided the Hamptons with $96,000, described as a gift, and Ensign helped find Doug Hampton, the husband, a lobbying job. The senator announced his resignation in late April.

Ensign’s farewell speech was notable as much for who was not there as for what he said. Not a single colleague came to hear him speak or to pay tribute to his service. The gallery was empty of family members. Five of Ensign’s staffers lined a bench on the Senate floor during his address; one could be seen wiping a tear with a tissue.