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Clarence Thomas Says His Colleagues Don’t Understand Value of Self-Defense

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas railed against his colleagues for the Court’s refusal Monday to hear a case challenging California’s strict handgun laws.

Only two justices – Thomas and Neil Gorsuch – voted in favor of hearing a challenge by California resident Edward Peruta, who says the state law limiting gun-carrying permits to those showing “good cause” violates the Second Amendment’s protection of the right to bear arms.

Thomas said the seven justices who voted against hearing the case, Peruta v. San Diego, don’t grasp the importance of self-defense.

“For those of us who work in marbled halls, guarded constantly by a vigilant and dedicated police force, the guarantees of the Second Amendment might seem antiquated and superfluous,” Thomas wrote after his colleagues voted against hearing the case.

“But the Framers made a clear choice: They reserved to all Americans the right to bear arms for self-defense. I do not think we should stand by idly while a State denies its citizens that right, particularly when their very lives may depend on it,” Thomas said in his dissent.

The high court fell short of the four votes needed to add the case to its docket for the session that starts in October.

Gorsuch joined ranks with Thomas, saying the Supreme Court should have heard the “indefensible” ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the strict restrictions that the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department’ has placed on concealed carry permits.

Only citizens who can prove they have a regular need for self-defense against a specific threat are granted permits under the policy.

The Ninth Circuit ruled that the Second Amendment “does not preserve or protect the right of a member of the general public to carry concealed firearms in public.”

“The whole point of the Sheriff’s policy is to confine concealed-carry licenses to a very narrow subset of law-abiding residents,” Peruta’s attorneys wrote. “And because California law prohibits openly carrying a handgun outside the home, the result is that the typical law-abiding resident cannot bear a handgun for self-defense outside the home at all.”

Thomas said the high court’s refusal to hear the case “reflects a distressing trend: the treatment of the Second Amendment as a disfavored right.”

“The Second Amendment’s core purpose further supports the conclusion that the right to bear arms extends to public carry,” Thomas said. “Even if other Members of the Court do not agree that the Second Amendment likely protects a right to public carry, the time has come for the Court to answer this important question definitively. “

Gorsuch’s decision to join ranks with stalwart conservative Thomas on the issue signals his broad support of the Second Amendment, something that wasn’t well-established based on his decisions as a judge on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.