Against the objections of two Justices, the US Supreme Court refused on Monday to consider a NRA-backed appeal against San Francisco’s strict gun laws. After the decision, dissenting Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas raised questions on how the Supreme Court, as well as lower courts, dealt with cases related to the Second Amendment.
“Despite the clarity with which we described the Second Amendment’s core protection for the right of self-defense, lower courts, including the ones here, have failed to protect it,” Justice Scalia wrote in dissent. “Because Second Amendment rights are no less protected by our Constitution than other rights enumerated in that document, I would have granted this petition.”
Scalia and Thomas added that San Francisco’s gun laws strained against the fundamental core of the Second Amendment. Currently, gun owners in the city are required to keep handguns in a lockbox or secured through a trigger lock when they are not carrying them on their person. Residents are also forbidden from using hollow point ammunition, despite their popularity as a self-defense round elsewhere.
Gun advocates have long called these laws a violation of the Second Amendment and in 2012, Espanola Jackson and seven other plaintiffs filed a suit against the city to overturn the lockbox law. Their challenge has a precedent in District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the Supreme Court decided that gun owners have a right to a readily available weapon in the home.
The challengers argued that the lower courts—such as the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld San Francisco’s gun laws in a ruling last March—were disregarding the Supreme Court’s previous decisions entirely. The dissenting Justices mostly agreed.
“San Francisco’s law allows residents to use their handguns for the purpose of self-defense, but it prohibits them from keeping those handguns operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense,” Thomas wrote. “The law burdens their right to self-defense at times when they are most vulnerable—when they are sleeping, bathing, changing clothes or otherwise indisposed. There is consequently no question that the San Francisco law burdens the core of the Second Amendment right.”