Supreme Court Denies Pro-Gun Challenge to California’s 10 Day Waiting Period

It's a small victory for gun control advocates.

Flickr / bk1bennett

The U.S. Supreme Court kept the gun control debate at arm’s length on Tuesday, declining to hear a case that challenged California’s 10 day waiting period for gun purchases.

The mandatory 10 day wait is intended as a cooling off window, meant to curtail the use of guns for impulsive violence and suicide attempts. Pro-gun activists had argued that the waiting period is a violation of the 2nd Amendment, and wanted it waived for gun owners who had previously passed a background check. Proponents of the law claimed that it’s a reasonable safeguard against potential gun violence, well within the jurisdiction of state law.

In an 11 to one vote (Judge Clarence Thomas dissented), the Court rejected the case, effectively affirming the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold the regulation. But in refusing to hear the case, the Supreme Court avoided taking a definitive stance on the constitutionality of enforced waiting periods.

Their non-decision comes at a time when lax gun laws have been heavily criticized by teenagers from Parkland, Florida, where a gunman shot and killed 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14 with a legally obtained assault rifle.

The most recent school shooting set off a familiar cycle of outrage and inaction, one that has become a grim ritual after each mass shooting in the United States. But because of the efforts of students who survived the Parkland attack, the enactment of stricter gun laws now have some loud support. Students have been extremely vocal about their opposition to loosely regulated gun ownership, speaking candidly to the public about their traumatic experience and advocating for immediate change.

Some Parkland students are planning the “March for Our Lives,” in Washington D.C. on March 24, where they will rally for stronger gun legislation at the federal level. Two other youth-led gun control demonstrations are also set for March and April.

If the national mood on gun control is indeed changing, the shift doesn’t seem to have reached the Supreme Court, which hasn’t adjudicated a major gun case since enshrining the individual’s right to own a firearm in 2010. By passing on the case, the Court upheld California’s right to reasonably regulate guns, but it missed an opportunity to take a definitive stance on gun legislation.

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