Supreme Court won’t hear challenge to California’s waiting period for gun purchases

Gun control efforts are galvanizing the nation again, but the Supreme Court is remaining silent.

As the national debate over guns intensified following last week’s school shooting in Florida that killed 17 students and teachers, the high court continued to resist inserting itself — a path it has followed for several years.

Justice Clarence Thomas issued an angry, 14-page dissent in which he complained that lower courts have failed to give the Second Amendment “the respect due an enumerated constitutional right.” But none of the court’s other conservatives joined him.

Since its landmark rulings in 2008 and 2010 upheld the right to keep and bear firearms for self-defense, the Supreme Court has declined to hear challenges from gun rights or gun control groups. That has left issues such as assault weapons bans, trigger locks and the right to carry guns in public up to the states.

California’s waiting period was enacted in order to perform background checks and provide a “cooling off” period for prospective buyers. It was challenged by two gun owners as unconstitutional, particularly for individuals who already own a gun and have a concealed-carry license.

Thomas, the court’s most conservative justice, said the court’s reticence to get involved constitutes a double standard. He noted the court is hearing at least five First Amendment cases and four Fourth Amendment cases this term, “even though our jurisprudence is much more developed for those rights.”

Noting it takes just four votes to hear a case, Thomas said the court likely would agree to review a 10-day waiting period for abortions or the publication of racist speech, or even a 10-minute delay of a traffic stop. 

“The court would take these cases because abortion, speech and the Fourth Amendment are three of its favored rights,” he said. “The right to keep and bear arms is apparently this court’s constitutional orphan. And the lower courts seem to have gotten the message.”

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