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Supreme Court Won't Hear Challenge To California's Gun Laws

The U.S. Supreme Court is shown on Dec. 4, 2017, in Washington, D.C. The court, continuing a years-long pattern, has declined to hear a constitutional challenge to a state gun law.

The U.S. Supreme Court has, once again, declined to hear a Second Amendment case, turning away a constitutional challenge to a 10-day waiting period for the purchase of guns in California. The court's decision not to hear the case came over an angry dissent from conservative Justice Clarence Thomas.

The decision to stay out of the California case is the latest sign of the justices' reluctance to enter the national debate over gun control. While the decision has no legal importance, the practical effect is to leave in place California's waiting period, and others like it. Such laws are designed in part to prevent impulsive violence and suicides.

Gun rights activists had argued that the 10-day waiting period violates the second amendment guarantee of a right to keep and bear arms, especially for those who already legally own guns and have passed background checks.

But the court, as it has done consistently in recent years, decided not to take up the case. The last major set of gun cases came in 2008 and 2010, when the court ruled for the first time that individuals have a right to own a gun for self-defense in their homes.

Although those decisions left considerable room for gun regulation, it also left many questions unanswered, and since then the court has rejected the pleas of gun rights activists to hear their challenges to other laws that limit when and where states may limit guns.

Referring to this record of nonintervention, Justice Thomas accused his fellow justices of treating the right to bear arms as a "disfavored" constitutional right.

He contended that his fellow justices would have easily agreed to hear other cases if they involved the right to free speech, the right to abortion, or the right to be free from unreasonable searches. Noting that the court has not reviewed an important gun rights case in eight years, he castigated his colleagues for treating gun rights as "a constitutional orphan."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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