US Supreme Court rejects challenge to California gun waiting period

Justice Thomas delivers pro-gun rant just days after the Parkland shooting

The Supreme Court on Tuesday decided not to hear a case challenging California's 10-day waiting period required after purchasing a gun in the state, and Justice Clarence Thomas is not happy.

With limited exceptions, California requires a 10-day waiting period for the purchase of any firearm. The delay was initially meant to allow time for background checks, and while those now take far less time electronically, state officials say the waiting period also acts as a deterrent against suicides and other impulse shootings.

A 2011 law set aside $5 of that fee to support state programs to identify and confiscate guns from people who purchased them legally but later became ineligible to own them because of convictions for serious or violent crimes, domestic violence restraining orders, or mental illnesses. Writing in dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas faulted his colleagues for their "inaction" and for turning the Second Amendment into "a disfavored right in this Court". Since those two decisions, however, the Court has said very little about the Second Amendment.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.

In 2008 and again in 2010, the Supreme Court struck down ordinances in Washington, D.C., and Chicago that prohibited the private possession of firearms on the grounds these hand-gun bans violated the Second Amendment.

The Supreme Court has made landmark decisions in the last decade undermining state-level restrictions on gun ownership.

Saying that it's been 10 years since the court clarified the standard for assessing Second Amendment claims, Thomas notes that the court has by contrast granted review, in this term alone, to "at least five cases involving the First Amendment and four cases involving the Fourth Amendment".

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld California's law in 2016, reversing a federal trial court that had ruled it unconstitutional.

A lawsuit by the NRA and other firearms advocates argued that the fee placed an unjustifiable financial burden on Californians exercising their constitutional rights.

In dissent, Thomas said the lower court's ruling reflects the "general failure to afford the Second Amendment the respect due an enumerated constitutional right".

The Supreme Court declined Tuesday to take up two gun-related cases out of California, maintaining its reluctance to dive back into the debate concerning the scope of the 2nd Amendment. Among other things, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the Court in Heller, "nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms".

The waiting-period case is Silvester vs. Becerra, 17-342.

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