By: Teresa Mull
In what seems to be an obvious, did we really have to have a Supreme Court ruling on this? moment, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that no, police can’t disregard the Fourth Amendment in the name of “community caretaking.”
The case Caniglia v Strom challenged whether Rhode Island police acted legally when, on the pretense of a wellness check, they entered the plaintiff’s home without a warrant and took his guns. Thetruthaboutguns.com reports he had to sue the police department to get them back.
In a unanimous decision handed down yesterday, SCOTUS defied the Biden administration, which favors applying the “community caretaking” clause to homes, though it has henceforth been an exception used to give police “a legal way to remove cars from the side of the interstate or clear wrecks,” reports the Foundation for Economic Education. Biden’s Justice Department submitted an amicus brief arguing, “The Fourth Amendment permits a warrantless seizure or home entry that is reasonably necessary to protect health or safety.”
In its ruling, however, the Supreme Court declared (Justice Thomas’ opinion; read the full ruling here):
What is reasonable for vehicles is different from what is reasonable for homes.
“This ruling is a real win for gun owners and a decisive setback to the Gun Grabbers, who saw here the opportunity to hand government the freedom to march at will into the houses of gun owners under the flimsiest of pretexts and seize their guns, calling it ‘community caretaking,'" Hannah Hill, National Foundation for Gun Rights policy analyst told GPM. "This week, the Supreme Court drew a clear line in the sand: our right to be secure in our home against unreasonable searches and seizures means that if the police show up, they better have a warrant."
Thank goodness the Supreme Court ruled sensibly in this case, the consequences of which could have been catastrophic. Consider these sobering words John Velleco, Executive Vice President of Gun Owners of America and Gun Owners Foundation, wrote here prior to the ruling:
Think about the consequence of losing this case. It would mean yet another erosion of the ancient English notion that “a man’s home is his castle” which undergirded the Fourth Amendment. It would allow police to conduct warrantless searches of your home and seizures of your firearms on the flimsiest of excuses.
All the police would need to say was that they were there for your own good — not to investigate a crime, and they could take away the means by which you protect your own home. To guard against such judicial undermining of our Constitutional Rights, Americans must fully understand and not be fooled by the legal-sounding gimmicks used by “lawyers wearing black robes on the government payroll.”
"An opposite ruling here would have been the first step toward judicial countenance for ‘Red Flag’-type policies where Constitutional protections fly out the window if the police think they have a ‘good enough’ reason to seize your guns," added Hill. "Make no mistake, the Supreme Court WILL have to decide the ‘Red Flag’ issue at some point, but today we celebrate a unanimous ruling that affirms the plain meaning of the Fourth Amendment and stops the Gun Grabbers in their tracks – for now.”
Teresa Mull (firstname.lastname@example.org) is editor of Gunpowder Magazine.