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Prof. Glenn Smith Explains Nuances of Calif. Gun Laws that Supreme Court Declines to Overturn

Arms holding a handgun

In a recent interview on KPBS-FM, California Western School of Law Professor Glenn Smith lent his U.S. Supreme Court expertise to the nationwide conversation surrounding firearm regulations.

On February 20, the high court rejected two challenges by guns rights groups to California laws regulating firearm sales, less than a week after a gunman killed 17 people at a Florida high school. In one case, the Supreme Court said it will not review California's 10-day waiting period for gun sales, prompting Justice Clarence Thomas to declare in a 14-page dissent that his colleagues are turning the Second Amendment into a "constitutional orphan."

"Basically what he's saying is that in the last eight years, we haven't decided any gun control cases, but have decided 35 free speech and 25 search and seizure-reasonableness cases," Smith explains. "He's accusing the Court of treating this as a second-class right, and in this latest opinion, of enabling defiance by the Ninth Circuit in refusing to rebuke 'inappropriately weak' protection of gun rights."

Smith mentions that this is just the latest of a few gun-control cases enacted by a state or municipality that the Supreme Court has refused to review, leading court watchers to infer that it would rather have lawmakers and legislatures be responsible for ultimate decision making. "Interestingly, the Court has done a similar process in the area of abortion," Smith says. "In 1992 the Court shifted the standard for abortion regulation, and many thought that they would need to decide a bunch of cases after that—but it waited about eight years before trying the first case."

On the issue of gun reform, he continues, "It may be that they are looking for a case that is not extreme on either side—around which a consensus could develop."

In the meantime, the 10-day waiting period which California voters enacted will remain in place, as will a $19 fee on gun sales and transfers in the state.

Listen to Professor Smith's full interview on KPBS at: www.kpbs.org.