By Bob Egelko
In another setback for California's tough gun-control laws, a federal judge ruled Monday that the state can't require gun buyers to wait 10 days to pick up their newly purchased weapon if they already own a gun or have a license to possess a handgun.
U.S. District Judge Anthony Ishii of Fresno said the 10-day wait for current gun owners is a restriction on constitutional rights that isn't justified by safety concerns. He noted that all firearms purchasers, including second- and third-time buyers, must pass a state background check of their criminal and mental-health records, but said it was unreasonable to make gun owners wait the full 10 days to acquire another weapon.
He said there was evidence that some would-be gun buyers, including the two individual plaintiffs in the case, had decided not to make the purchase because of the time and expense needed for a second trip to a gun shop.
"The 10-day waiting period burdens the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms," Ishii said.
The ruling applies only to individuals who already own guns or have obtained a concealed-weapons license from their local law enforcement agency, and leaves most first-time gun buyers still subject to the waiting period, which was not challenged in the lawsuit.
The state can also continue to require all purchasers to wait until their background checks are completed before acquiring their guns, a period that sometimes lasts longer than 10 days.
Ishii put his ruling on hold for 180 days to give the state time for an appeal to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In February, a panel of that court ruled 2-1 that California must allow law-abiding citizens to carry handguns in public, striking down a law that requires a showing of "good cause" to obtain a concealed-weapons permit.
That ruling is also on hold while the appeals court considers the state's request for a new hearing before an 11-judge panel.
Monday's ruling is "an important step toward restoring fundamental individual liberties in the Golden State," said Brandon Combs, executive director of the Calguns Foundation, which was a plaintiff in the case.
He said it calls other California gun-control laws into question, including the state's ban on gun models that are legal elsewhere, its limit of one gun purchase every 30 days, and a requirement of "micro-stamping" in the chambers of new semiautomatic handguns so that their cartridges can be traced at a crime scene.
Attorney Lindsay Nichols of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a San Francisco gun-control organization, called Monday's ruling "very disturbing." She said the 10-day waiting period "also acts as a cooling-off period" for those who buy guns because of suicidal impulses or anger.
Ishii said in his ruling, however, that a cooling-off period was pointless for those who already owned guns.
Computerized background checks clear 20 percent of all applicants within about an hour, he said. He also said only 10 states, including California, impose a mandatory waiting period for firearms.
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