A federal judge severely limited California’s gun-purchase waiting period in a ruling released Monday that says the law is unconstitutional when applied to those who have gone through the process to get a concealed-weapons permit, or who the state already knows to be firearms owners.
First-time gun buyers are still subject to the 10-day waiting period, but Judge Anthony W. Ishii ruled that those who have already been judged competent to own a gun should not be forced to wait an additional period for every new gun they seek to purchase.
The ruling signals that the Second Amendment goes beyond the right to own a single gun, and protects Americans’ rights to multiple guns.
“The Second Amendment applies to ‘arms’ and its language does not limit its full protections to a single firearm,” Judge Ishii wrote. “Some firearms are better suited for particular lawful purposes than others. Defendant has cited no authority that suggests that the Second Amendment only has application to a single firearm.”
The judge stayed his own ruling for 180 days to give California time to rewrite its laws, should it choose to do so.
Gun-rights groups cheered the ruling.
“Basically, the waiting period doesn’t make any sense when someone has already been cleared, has a concealed-carry permit and already owns a gun,” said Miko Tempski, general counsel for the Second Amendment Foundation, which brought the case along with the Calguns Foundation and two individual plaintiffs.
Judge Ishii, an appointee to the federal bench of President Clinton, said California already imposes strict checks when someone wishes to obtain a permit to carry a concealed firearm.
“For those who already own a firearm and are known to be trustworthy due to the licenses that they hold and a history of responsible gun ownership, there is no justification for imposing the full 10-day waiting period,” the judge wrote.
All buyers must still pass the background check, which could take some time, leading to a delay in taking possession of the firearm.
Waiting periods have been one of several restrictions gun-control advocates have pursued, along with limiting access to military-style rifles, limiting the number of guns purchased in a period of time, and restricting the size of ammunition magazines.
Backers argue that a waiting period could serve as a “cooling-off” time for someone who is trying to buy a weapon in the heat of passion, and to give officials time to complete a background check.
But opponents argue none of that applies to a current gun-owner, who already has access to a firearm, thus making a cooling-off period moot.
In his 56-page ruling, Judge Ishii specifically rejected some of the historical arguments made by gun-control advocates, including that most Americans wouldn’t have been gun owners in the decades following adoption of the Second Amendment, so they would not find restrictions such as waiting periods to be onerous or unconstitutional.
“That naturally occurring, non-governmental forces may have limited the ability of some individuals in some parts of the country to readily obtain firearms does not show that it was understood around 1791 (the year the Second Amendment was adopted) or 1868 (the year the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted) that the government could impose a waiting period between the time of purchase and the time of possession of a firearm,” he wrote.
“If anything, given the absence of any such laws, and accepting defendant’s assertions about American life at the time, it seems more likely that the citizenry of 1791 and 1868 would not have been accepting of such laws because those laws would have created additional difficulties and barriers to obtaining a firearm.”