Thomas Calls Second Amendment the High Court’s ‘Constitutional Orphan’
Justice rips colleagues' decision to snub California gun control law appeal, saying right to bear arms isn't one of judicial system's 'favored rights'
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas slammed lower federal court judges for treating the Second Amendment as a “constitutional orphan” and refusing to give it “the respect due an enumerated constitutional right.”
The Supreme Court declined Tuesday to hear a challenge to California’s law instituting a 10-day waiting period for all firearms purchases. The refusal comes less than a week after 17 people died in the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
While gun control advocates argued that the waiting period allowed ample time to run background checks, Second Amendment advocates argued that gun owners who already passed background checks or had concealed carry licenses shouldn’t have to wait 10 days.
In a blistering 14-page dissent, Thomas ripped the Supreme Court and California’s 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“The right to keep and bear arms is apparently this court’s constitutional orphan. And the lower courts seem to have gotten the message,” Thomas wrote. “If a lower court treated another right so cavalierly, I have little doubt this court would intervene. But as evidenced by our continued inaction in this area, the Second Amendment is a disfavored right in this court.”
Thomas argued the lower court’s ruling represented a “deviation from ordinary principles of law [that] is unfortunate, though not surprising” and claimed that the lower courts in general are “failing to protect the Second Amendment to the same extent that they protect other constitutional rights.”
“In the 9th Circuit, it seems, rights that have no basis in the Constitution receive greater protection than the Second Amendment, which is enumerated in our text,” Thomas wrote in his dissent, noting that the Second Amendment isn’t one of the court’s “favored rights.”
After issuing major Second Amendment-related rulings in 2008 and 2010, the Supreme Court largely has steered clear of deciding other important rulings on the issue.
The debate over gun control regulations and restrictions reignited last week after accused gunman Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Lawmakers reacted by calling for votes on legislation intended to prevent future shootings, such as expanding background checks, dealing with mental health issues, and increasing school security measures.