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Supreme Court won't hear challenge to California gun waiting period

by Pete Williams /
Police officers stand in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, DC.Eric Thayer / Reuters file

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court said Tuesday it will not take up an appeal to California's 10-day waiting period for gun buyers, acting as the issue of gun control is once more in the national spotlight after last week's school shooting in Florida.

Justice Clarence Thomas said the court should have taken up the challenge. The refusal to do so, he said, is a sign that "the Second Amendment is a disfavored right in this Court."

Gun rights advocates challenged California's law in court, claiming it is unconstitutional. A trial court ruled in their favor, concluding that the law did not serve an important governmental interest. But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, reversed that ruling. And now the Supreme Court is leaving that appeals court ruling intact.

Thomas noted that the Supreme Court has not touched the gun rights issue for nearly a decade, since ruling that the Second Amendment provides an individual right to have a handgun at home for self defense.

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"The right to keep and bear arms is apparently this Court's constitutional orphan," Thomas wrote in a dissent. No other justice joined him on it.

Under the California law at issue, a buyer must wait 10 days before the seller can hand over a firearm — a rifle, shotgun or a handgun. Eight other states have waiting periods. Only Hawaii's 14-day period is longer.

Those states say those delays have two advantages — allowing time for a thorough background check and providing a "cooling-off" period, allowing people who might guy a gun to harm themselves or others a chance to calm down.

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