Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch issued a stern warning Monday to a Supreme Court decision turning away yet another gun rights case.
On a busy morning of decisions, the court on Monday rejected a challenge out of California regarding the right to carry guns outside their homes, leaving in place a San Diego sheriff’s strict limits on issuing permits for concealed weapons.
But Clarence Thomas, in a dissent joined by Gorsuch, countered that the case raises “important questions” – and warned that Second Amendment disputes aren’t getting the attention they deserve from the Supreme Court.
“The Court’s decision … reflects a distressing trend: the treatment of the Second Amendment as a disfavored right,” they wrote.
The case in question involved a San Diego man who said state and county policies requiring “good cause” — a specific reason or justifiable need to legally carry a concealed weapon — were too restrictive. A federal appeals court had ruled for the state, and now those restrictions will stay in place.
But Justices Thomas and Gorsuch – the court’s newest member – called the appeals court’s decision to limit its review only to the “good cause” provision “indefensible.”
“The Court has not heard argument in a Second Amendment case in over seven years,” they wrote. “… This discrepancy is inexcusable, especially given how much less developed our jurisprudence is with respect to the Second Amendment as compared to the First and Fourth Amendments.”
The justices concluded by warning the court is in danger of acting dismissive toward the right to bear arms:
“For those of us who work in marbled halls, guarded constantly by a vigilant and dedicated police force, the guarantees of the Second Amendment might seem antiquated and superfluous. But the Framers made a clear choice: They reserved to all Americans the right to bear arms for self-defense. I do not think we should stand by idly while a State denies its citizens that right, particularly when their very lives may depend on it. I respectfully dissent.”
The high court decided in 2008 that the Constitution guarantees the right to a gun, at least for self-defense at home.
But the justices have refused repeated pleas to spell out the extent of gun rights in the United States, allowing permit restrictions and assault weapons bans to remain in effect in some cities and states.
More than 40 states already broadly allow gun owners to be armed in public.
The Supreme Court also turned away a second case involving guns and the federal law that bars people convicted of crimes from owning guns.
The Trump administration had urged the court to review an appellate ruling that restored the rights of two men who had been convicted of non-violent crimes to own guns.
The federal appeals court in Philadelphia ruled for the two men. The crimes were classified as misdemeanors, which typically are less serious, but carried potential prison sentences of more than a year. Such prison terms typically are for felonies, more serious crimes.
The administration says that the court should have upheld the blanket prohibition on gun ownership in the federal law and rejected case-by-case challenges.
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor said they would have heard the administration’s appeal.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.