As of Tuesday, Clarence Thomas has been a justice on the Supreme Court for 9,610 days. Based on his record, it’s reasonable to assume that he’s found at least that many ways to dishonor the seat that was once held by Thurgood Marshall.
This is a man who believes that slavery didn’t amount to a loss of dignity. This is a man who didn’t say a word during a Supreme Court session for more than a decade–and then proceeded to jam his foot in it deep by suggesting that a domestic violence conviction shouldn’t bar you from having a gun. This is a man who thinks that states should be allowed to draw districts any way they please–and the rights of voters be hanged.
Well, Thomas embarrassed himself yet again on Tuesday. Apparently he couldn’t see the wisdom in a California law that mandates a waiting period for buying guns.
When the Supremes convened for the first time since a grisly shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school, it denied cert to two attempts to overturn California’s 10-day waiting period for buying guns. The waiting period allows state officials time to run a background check, and also gives people who might use a newly-purchased gun to harm themselves or others “an opportunity to calm down.”
One of those challenges was Silvester v. Becerra, in which two gun owners sought to overturn the waiting period as a Second Amendment violation. They claimed that since they already owned guns or had concealed-carry permits, the waiting period shouldn’t apply to them. A district court sided with the plaintiffs, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision. The decision to deny cert didn’t sit well with Thomas, who threw what amounted to a 14-page tantrum about it.
To Thomas’ mind, “common sense suggests” that those who want to go on a rampage with a gun would use one they already have, “instead of taking all the steps to legally buy a new one in California.” Apparently Thomas hasn’t been paying attention to the most recent mass shootings. In the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, investigators found a mini-arsenal in gunman Stephen Paddock’s hotel room–23 firearms, 12 of which were outfitted with bump stocks that effectively turned them into automatic weapons. And Nikolas Cruz bought 10 guns in the year before he burst into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and killed 17 people.
Thomas then railed about how his colleagues have been reluctant to take up Second Amendment cases. Since 2008 in District of Columbia v. Heller, when the Supremes found for the first time that the Second Amendment gives individuals the right to own guns, they have only considered one other major Second Amendment case–in 2010, when McDonald v. City of Chicago found the Second Amendment was binding on the states via the 14th Amendment.
Thomas thought that the lower courts weren’t willing to “protect the Second Amendment to the same extent that they protect other constitutional rights,” and his colleagues were missing a chance to correct this error. He believes this was a sign that the Supremes consider the Second Amendment a “constitutional orphan.”
Thomas mused that the other justices would be a bit more willing to review a state law that imposed a 10-day waiting period for abortions. He apparently forgets that women who want an abortion face hard and fast deadlines to get one, so a long waiting period can be tantamount to a ban.
Anyone who reads this dissent can be pardoned for shaking their head in disgust. Among them was Canadian journalist Jonathan Sher.
Clarence Thomas proving that @realDonaldTrump is not in a one-man race for dumbest person in America. Thomas alone thinks 10-day wait period for guns infringes 2nd amendment @NRA @SenSanders @BarackObama
— Jonathan Sher (@SherOnHealth) February 20, 2018
That’s being kind to it. It cannot be stated enough–in the face of two recent mass shootings in which the gunmen were found to have massive stockpiles of guns, a Supreme Court justice doesn’t see the wisdom in a basic measure to prevent someone with ill intent from amassing such a stockpile.
No doubt Marshall was turning in his grave for the umpteenth time since he died in 1993. The seat he occupied with distinction for 24 years has been disgraced–again.
(featured image courtesy Annamarie Smith, available under a Creative Commons BY-NC license)