The Supreme Court Continues To Be A Doormat

In the usual course of events, when the Supreme Court issues definitive rulings on an area of constitutional law, it fully expects lower courts to abide by their ruling. If these lower courts don’t, they get slapped down for their impertinence. However, when it comes to the Second Amendment, the Supreme Court in the post-McDonald era has allowed lower courts to treat it like a doormat. Their submissive posture in the face of decisions coming out of especially the 4th and 9th Circuits that ignore Heller and McDonald is, to be blunt, nauseating. The only justice that seems to have a spine and recognizes the danger to the powers of the court is Justice Clarence Thomas.

I write this as a prelude to the announcement today that the Supreme Court decided to deny certiorari in Silvester et al v. Becerra et al. It was on appeal from the 9th Circuit which found the 10-day waiting period for those with a California CCW, a California Certificate of Eligibility, or already had firearms registered to them had a valid government purpose. While supposedly deciding it on intermediate scrutiny, it was in fact decided on a rational basis. The problem with that is that rational basis cannot be used when it comes to an enumerated right. This case was originally a win in the District Court but reversed by 9th Circuit.

Justice Thomas noted in his 14 page dissent that:

This deferential analysis was indistinguishable from rational-
basis review. And it is symptomatic of the lower courts’
general failure to afford the Second Amendment the re-
spect due an enumerated constitutional right.

If a lower court treated another right so cavalierly, I
have little doubt that this Court would intervene. But as
evidenced by our continued inaction in this area, the
Second Amendment is a disfavored right in this Court. Because I do not believe we should be in the business of
choosing which constitutional rights are “really worth
insisting upon,”
Heller, supra, at 634, I would have granted
certiorari in this case.

He concluded his dissent by saying:

Nearly eight years ago, this Court declared that the
Second Amendment is not a “second-class right, subject to
an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of

Rights guarantees.” McDonald, 561 U. S., at 780 (plurality opinion). By refusing to review decisions like the one

below, we undermine that declaration. Because I still
believe that the Second Amendment cannot be “singled out
for special—and specially unfavorable—treatment,” id., at
778–779 (majority opinion), I respectfully dissent from the
denial of certiorari.

I don’t know if any other justices voted to grant certiori but I do know that there weren’t the required four votes. Decisions like that go to illustrate just how much we miss the late Justice Scalia and his leadership.

The Calguns Foundation which supported this lawsuit along with the Second Amendment Foundation issued the following statement:

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 20, 2017)­­­­­­ — The Calguns Foundation has issued the following statement regarding the Supreme Court’s decision to not review a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that upheld California’s 10-day waiting period for existing gun owners who pass a background check:

We are disappointed, but not entirely surprised, that the Court has once again decided against taking up a Second Amendment challenge to plainly unconstitutional laws.

In his important 14-page dissent from the Court’s denial of certiorari, Justice Clarence Thomas detailed why the Ninth Circuit applied an improper “deferential analysis” that was “indistinguishable from rational-basis review,” showing “the lower courts’ general failure to afford the Second Amendment the respect due an enumerated constitutional right.”

We agree with Justice Thomas that the Ninth Circuit’s “double standard is apparent from other cases,” like one where it invalidated an Arizona law partly because it “delayed” women seeking an abortion, and another where it struck down a Washington county’s 5-day waiting period for adult dancing licenses because it “unreasonably prevent[ed] a dancer from exercising first amendment rights while an application [was] pending.”

As Justice Thomas explained, the “Ninth Circuit would not have done this for any other constitutional right, and it could not have done this unless it was applying rational-basis review.” He is, of course, correct—just as we have maintained throughout the course of this appeal and in our briefing to the Supreme Court. But in the Ninth Circuit, it appears, “rights that have no basis in the Constitution receive greater protection than the Second Amendment, which is enumerated in the text.”

From the bottom of our hearts, we wish to thank every single supporter who generously helped us litigate this long-running case through trial and up to the Supreme Court. We also want to thank amici Cato Institute, Crime Prevention Research Center, Firearms Policy Coalition, Madison Society Foundation, Gun Owners of California, and Firearms Policy Foundation for their excellent briefs in support of our case and the cause of individual liberty.

The Calguns Foundation will continue to challenge unconstitutional gun control laws until the Second Amendment takes its place as a peer among fundamental rights, like those in the First Amendment, rather than the “constitutional orphan” and “second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees” that it is in the Ninth Circuit today.


2 thoughts on “The Supreme Court Continues To Be A Doormat”

  1. Actually, while I very much respect Justice Thomas's opinion here, I'm wondering if the court isn't "gun shy" because it is essentially split on the issue. The anti-gun side is about 4 justices, and the pro-gun is about 4 justices, with Justice Kennedy as the cipher. No one really knows what way he is going to go on the more controversial issues, so the pro-gun side (Thomas excluded) is wary of voting to take on a case where they might lose a significant amount of ground that was gained in Heller and McDonald. Similarly, the anti-gun side doesn't want to grant cert because they don't know if Kennedy is going to side with the pro-gun justices and essentially entrench the Second Amendment as a strong individual right forever.

    It's my belief that until the balance of the court changes one way or the other, the Supreme Court will remain "gun shy" and refuse to grant cert to Second Amendment cases.

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