FRESNO, Calif. (CN) - Californians who already own guns don't need to wait out the state's 10-day waiting period to buy more firearms, a federal judge ruled, calling extra background checks unconstitutional.
Plaintiffs challenged the Golden State's 10-day waiting period to buy firearms, and other related restrictions, only as they apply to gun owners who already have gone through background checks or are licensed to carry concealed weapons, not for first-time purchasers.
U.S. District Judge Anthony Ishii sided
with gun owners in December 2013, denying Attorney General Kamala Harris' request to dismiss the gun owners' lawsuit.
Harris argued that the waiting period acts as a "cooling-off" for people who would otherwise impulsively purchase a gun to carry out a crime of passion.
But Ishii wrote that he had "great difficulty envisioning" how a cooling-off period could apply to people who already have passed background checks, waiting periods, and already own guns.
On Monday, Ishii ruled that making those people jump through the same hoops every time they buy another gun tramples on their Second Amendment rights.
Harris' argument that California has had some sort of waiting period since 1923 is not sufficient, Ishii said.
Furthermore, the cooling-off period touted by the state is nowhere to be found in any legislative reasoning for either the waiting period or the background checks - and would do little to stop a current gun owner from carrying out a crime of passion with a different weapon, Ishii found.
"It is true that some individuals may not have ammunition for a firearm in their possession, or that the firearm may not be in working condition," Ishii wrote. "However, no evidence attempts to quantify this, and it is unduly speculative to conclude that this is a common occurrence."
He continued: "If an individual already possess a firearm and then passes the background check, this indicates a history of responsible gun ownership. There has been no showing that applying the 10-day waiting period to all individuals who already possess a firearm will materially prevent impulsive acts of violence."
Ishii rejected the state's argument that the waiting period stymies "straw purchases" made on behalf of someone who can't pass the background check by someone who can. Law enforcement officials intercept those weapons before delivery just 15 percent of the time - not often enough to justify a Second Amendment breach, Ishii said.
For concealed-carry permit holders, the waiting period makes even less constitutional sense due to the stringent requirements and two-year renewals for the permit.
"CCW license applicants must demonstrate good moral character. Engaging in unlawful acts of violence is inconsistent with good moral character," Ishii wrote. "CCW license applicants must take a statutorily mandated class and demonstrate proficiency and safe handling of a firearm. Safe handling practices could cause a gun owner to be more reflective and deliberate about using a firearm."
He added: "If an individual has met the requirements for obtaining a CCW license, and thereby has demonstrated that he or she can be expected and trusted to carry a concealed handgun in public for two years, it is unknown why that person would have to wait 10 days before being permitted to take possession of a newly purchased firearm."
Ishii declined to address the gun owners' equal-protection challenge, saying the remedy for the Second Amendment violations resolved both constitutional problems.
He stayed his ruling for 180 days to allow the Legislature to rewrite the law. A status conference is scheduled for Dec. 8.