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Why California’s gun control case never got to the Supreme Court

(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

After bouncing around the California courts, the Supreme Court opted not to hear a controversial gun control case.

A group of gun owners argued that California’s 10-day waiting period to receive a purchased firearm was unconstitutional.

“California’s stated rational for the waiting period is to guard against impulsive violence and suicides,” former Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross. “The plaintiffs, including the Calguns Foundation, prevailed in the federal district court in the Eastern District of California … trial court agreed with them, but the 9th Circuit (Court) overturned the trial court’s ruling and upheld the state’s statute.”

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The Supreme Court could not find four judges out of nine to agree to discuss the gun control issue, McKenna said.

“We’ve seen time and again that local governments and state governments can impose regulations on firearms purchases and not step over the line – unlike the District of Colombia that did that when they basically made it impossible to own a handgun,” he said. “It’s about whether or not your right to keep and bear arms is infringed to an acceptable level by a particular regulation. They are not saying you can’t have the weapon that you want to purchase. They are saying you have to wait 10 days before you can pick it up.”

Gun control laws operate differently in Washington than in California. Washington state requires a background check for handguns, adopted after I-594 passed in 2014. A buyer must wait for the background check to be completed before obtaining a handgun. For example, a store sends a customer’s information to the local police department, which then performs the background check. The department has 10 days to complete that work (it could be finished in one day or 10). After that, the customer can pick up the pistol.

There are no such regulations or waiting periods in Washington for rifles.

Gun control laws

The issue comes in the wake of the mass shooting at a Florida high school. A 19-year-old former student at Stoneman Douglas High School took the lives of 17 people with an AR-15. The gunman was known to local police. Officers visited his home for disturbances 39 times in seven years. There may have been nothing, legally, that authorities could have done in the Florida case.

“Can you take his guns? You have to have a change in the law, probably,” McKenna said. “Right now, to lose your right to possess firearms, you have to be convicted of a felony; you have to be committed for mental illness. You would have to create a new test in the law. Similarly, if you wanted to ban people like Nikolas Cruz from buying the gun to begin with, you have to add additional tests to the background check process that include these red flags, and not just look at if they have a criminal history and a history of mental illness.”

Hear Dave’s full conversation with Rob McKenna here.

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