Biden admin calls on SCOTUS to let police enter homes, confiscate guns without a warrant
On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case about whether law enforcement officers can enter people’s homes and confiscate guns without a warrant, Forbes reported.
This comes in the wake of two mass shootings in the past eight days that have renewed the gun control debate, which has been relatively dormant throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Caniglia v. Strom, Forbes senior contributor Nick Sibilla wrote, is a case that could have wide-ranging consequences for policing, due process, mental health, as well as the Fourth Amendment. Notably, as part of the case, the Biden administration and attorneys general from nine states call on the court to uphold warrantless gun confiscation.
The case all started with an elderly couple’s dispute over a coffee mug in August 2015.
To summarize the story, an argument led to the husband—Edward Caniglia—grabbing a handgun, putting it on the kitchen table, and telling his wife Kim: “Why don’t you just shoot me and get me out of my misery?” This led to more arguing and eventually to Mrs. Caniglia spending the night in a motel. She phoned her home the next day but got no answer, which prompted her to call the police in Cranston, Rhode Island, and ask them to conduct a “well check” on her husband and escort her home.
The police, however, did not conduct the check according to the books. They then insisted that Mr. Caniglia goes to the hospital for an evaluation, though Mr. Caniglia refused, emphasizing that his mental health wasn’t their business. Mr. Caniglia agreed only after police promised—albeit falsely—they would not confiscate his guns while he was away.
Furthermore, officers then told Mrs. Caniglia that her husband had consented to the seizure, and she led them to the two handguns they owned, which were then seized. Despite Mr. Caniglia being immediately discharged from the hospital, police only gave back the firearms after filing a civil rights case against them.
Significantly, when police confiscated the handguns, they did not allege it was to prevent imminent danger. Rather, they argued their actions were a manner of “community caretaking,” a slim exception to the warrant requirement in the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.
As Sibilla explained, the community caretaking exception was initially created by the Supreme Court about half a century ago. It was designed for cases involving impounded cars and highway safety because police are often called to car accidents to remove nuisances like inoperable vehicles on public roads.
Both a district and an appellate court upheld the confiscations as “reasonable” under the community caretaking exception. The First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals acknowledged that “the doctrine’s reach outside the motor vehicle context is ill-defined.” Regardless, the court moved to extend that doctrine to cover private homes, ruling that the officers “did not exceed the proper province of their community caretaking responsibilities.”
Moreover, the court mentioned that a police officer “must act as a master of all emergencies, who is ‘expected to…provide an infinite variety of services to preserve and protect community safety.’” By allowing law enforcement to act without a warrant, the community caretaking exception is “designed to give police elbow room to take appropriate action,” the court added.
Attorneys for Caniglia, in their opening brief for the Supreme Court, argued that “extending the community caretaking exception to homes would be anathema to the Fourth Amendment” because it “would grant police a blank check to intrude upon the home.”
On the other hand, in its first amicus brief for the Supreme Court, the Biden administration disregarded these worries and urged the court to uphold the First Circuit’s ruling. Saying “the ultimate touchstone of the Fourth Amendment is ‘reasonableness,’” the Department of Justice (DOJ) contended that warrants should not be “presumptively required when a government official’s action is objectively grounded in a non-investigatory public interest, such as health or safety.”
“The ultimate question in this case,” its brief stated, “is therefore not whether the respondent officers’ actions fit within some narrow warrant exception […] but instead whether those actions were reasonable,” actions the DOJ felt were “justified” in Caniglia’s case.
This is where the problem lies with these type of cases, which defines mental illness. We have heard now from Democrats that Trump supporters are no different than the people who supported Hitler. Others are saying that all the GOP stands for is evil. We have to wonder how far off the path is it to go from mental illness to what is perceived as for society’s good of society?
Further, we now see how cancel culture works, the act of not agreeing with the liberal left is an unforgivable sin, how long until calls grow in volume that there is a need to seize guns to prevent another capital incursion, or blame all the violence from Antifa and BLM on the right? They are already doing this; what will it take to push the left to seize the guns in the name of the public good?
Some of you can say this will never happen, but if you had gone up to someone and showed them how things are today in the 1990s, they would have said that is impossible; we today could be saying the same thing in hindsight.
Thanks to Douglas Braff who contributed to this article.
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.