This is becoming disturbingly repetitive and depressing. Weren’t we supposed to have a “conservative Supreme Court” now? Perhaps not so much when it comes to the Second Amendment. After the Heller decision was handed down, the Supremes have seemed terribly gun shy (if you’ll pardon the phrase) about taking up any more cases affecting the rights of gun owners.
That pattern continued this week when the court declined to take up an appeal regarding California’s ten day waiting period for gun purchases. (Washington Times)
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to take up a case challenging a California law requiring a 10-day waiting period for gun purchases.
The decision lets stand a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the waiting period, after gun rights groups argued that it shouldn’t apply to people who already own a firearm or who have a concealed carry license.
In a 14-page dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas said the high court’s “continued inaction” in the area of gun rights indicates that it does not put the Second Amendment on equal footing with other amendments in the bill of rights.
“If a lower court treated another right so cavalierly, I have little doubt that this Court would intervene,” Justice Thomas wrote. “But as evidenced by our continued inaction in this area, the Second Amendment is a disfavored right in this Court.”
This case has been knocking around the courts for quite some time now. California passed their waiting period law back in the 90s, but it wasn’t until more than a decade later that it was challenged. Plaintiffs claimed that applying the waiting period to people who already legally owned guns and had jumped through all the required hoops in the legal system shouldn’t have it applied to them.
In 2014 a district court judge agreed, overturning parts of the law, saying that it would be an impermissible infringement on the Second Amendment to apply the waiting period to persons who had already passed a background check and owned firearms. But in 2016, a three judge panel from the Ninth Circuit (where else?) overturned that ruling and claimed that it, “would impose no serious burden on the core Second Amendment right of defense of the home.”
That was a significant stretch to reach the conclusion they offered. The only hypothetical example they could come up with was of someone who owned a hunting rifle and then decided to make an impulse purchase of, “a larger-capacity weapon that will do more damage when fired into a crowd.”
Clarence Thomas made some excellent points in his dissent, referring to this pattern of ducking the subject as a sign that the Second Amendment is “a disfavored right” in today’s court. Of course, that’s been true for a long time and has only slowly begun to change over the past decade or so. Perhaps some of the justices are spending too much time watching CNN rather than reading the wording of the Bill of Rights.
But to be fair, they’ve allowed the states to run roughshod over some other rights as well. Freedom of religion is sacrosanct unless you don’t want to bake a cake for gay couple’s wedding. Freedom of speech is rock solid unless you’re talking about political speech as it’s performed through campaign donations or union dues. There are limits to everything, it seems. In some cases they make sense, but in others it looks like a matter of convenience or fear of dipping a toe into highly contentious subjects. That’s what we seem to be observing here.