Does The 4th Amendment Apply To Gun Owners?

Because one Texan was exercising his 2nd Amendment rights, Texas authorities argue that police were justified in violating his 4th Amendment rights.
By @katierucke |
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    If someone owns a gun, is that enough for law enforcement to justify violating that person’s Fourth Amendment rights with a no-knock raid?

    It’s a question gun owners in Texas were hoping the U.S. Supreme Court would answer once and for all after Collin County police officers searched Texas resident John Quinn’s home without knocking or announcing their entry. But last week the court declined.

    The case relates to an incident in August 2006. Police say they were investigating Quinn’s son, Brian, who they suspected was in possession of drugs. Since the officers were aware that the Quinns owned firearms, including possibly an AK-47, they opted to conduct a no-knock raid at the family’s home.

    Because the police officers’ presence came as a surprise to John Quinn, who reportedly thought his home was being invaded by criminals, he reached for his gun. The heavily armed SWAT-like police force fired at him before he could fire at them, resulting in Quinn sustaining injuries.

    The police searched the home and found less than 1 gram of cocaine, and charged John Quinn with possession.

    Quinn’s son was not home at the time, a fact that the officer’s allegedly knew and was included in the warrant, so Quinn filed a lawsuit claiming the no-knock raid was an illegal search and seizure operation that violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

    Under the Fourth Amendment, police officers are required to knock and announce their presence before entering. However, if police feel that knocking would put their lives in danger, they can legally obtain permission to conduct a no-knock raid.

    Quinn’s case was taken up by the Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties organization, but all lower courts and courts of appeal have rejected Quinn’s defense argument, which is that just because he has guns doesn’t mean that police officers can conduct a no-knock raid on his home.

    In fact, Quinn argued that if the officers would have knocked, he likely wouldn’t have reached for his weapon, which he had for self-defense purposes, and wouldn’t have been shot at all. But the Texas courts explained in their ruling that because police knew there were guns in the home, they were justified in conducting a no-knock raid.

    John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, hoped the U.S. Supreme Court would hear Quinn’s case, and even created a petition arguing that “…in the absence of any evidence of actual danger to police, the legal possession of a firearm, as guaranteed by the Second Amendment, is not sufficient to justify allowing police to override the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unannounced ‘no-knock’ home invasions when executing warrants.”

    Whitehead, who has also authored a book titled “A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State,” warned that if the high court opted to not hear this case, then police officers throughout the U.S. would be able to cite this case as legal allowance for them to conduct a no-knock raid on any person they believed owned a firearm, setting what he called a dangerous precedent.

    Despite the Rutherford Institute’s best attempts, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it would not hear Quinn’s case, thereby allowing the lower court rulings to stand.

    In response, Whitehead released the following statement:

    “Whatever the issue might be, whether it’s mass surveillance, no-knock raids, or the right to freely express one’s views about the government, we’ve moved into a new age in which the rights of the citizenry are being treated as a secondary concern by the White House, Congress, the courts, and their vast holding of employees, including law enforcement officials,” Whitehead said.

    “The disconnect, of course, is that the Constitution establishes a far different scenario in which government officials, including the police, are accountable to ‘we the people.’ For it to be otherwise, for government concerns to trump individual freedoms, with government officials routinely sidestepping the Constitution and reinterpreting the law to their own purposes, makes a mockery of everything this nation is supposed to stand for—self-government, justice, and the rule of law.”

    Whether the court’s ruling will set a dangerous precedent for gun owners in the U.S. remains to be seen. If it does, it’s likely the Supreme Court will have no choice but to revisit the issue.

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    • Dave

      Sorry, but the actual fact is: Law abiding citizens don’t fear the police. Society sets ‘what is lawful’ – and the citizens voting for (or not voting) elected officials who make policy/law. It goes both ways – right now the Right Wing leaning politicians seem to be in control and are pressing ‘Right Leaning’ policy. When the left Wing leaning politicians are in control they pass Left leaning policies. This is how we seem to have the ongoing issue ‘that could so easily be settled by the Supreme Court’ – that there IS an intended worded Separation Between Church and Government. Since the right embraces this silence by the court to mean that there is NO intended separation between Church and Government. Why do they have issue with a probable cause/no knock home invasion (as done by the current law enforcement of society). if you don’t like things – vote to change it. I don’t understand how the conservatives embrace the Right/Conservative control here in Texas, but have issue when the law enforcement does their job as stated by current on the books law.

      By the way, the Supreme Court DID in fact discuss 1st amendment freedom of religion – in a 2006 case: Garcetti v Ceballos

      “Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on religion,” the EEOC guidance says. That means an employer does not have to accommodate the religious beliefs of an employee if it would “violat[e] a seniority system; causing a lack of necessary staffing; jeopardiz[e] security or health; or [cost] the employer more than a minimal amount.”

      Social and political preferences are not religious beliefs, according to EEOC.

      Employment attorney Stacy Cole said employers must make some accommodations for religious beliefs but employees must still do the core, central duties of their jobs. But the attorney added that he’s not comfortable with one employee passing off a same-sex couple to another employee, even in well-staffed offices.

      He cited the 2006 case Garcetti v Ceballos, which limited free speech protections for government employees when they are on the job.

      Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion that speech by a public official is only protected if it is engaged in as a private citizen, not if it is expressed as part of the official’s public duties. Cole said he thinks courts will use this decision to require county clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

      “That keeps the court out of marriage and religion,” Cole said, adding that it focuses on the core duties of the county clerk’s job.
      ACLU spokeswoman Rebecca Roberts said her organization hasn’t had to file any suits against county clerks in Texas so far, but they’re monitoring what’s going on around the state.

      Roberts noted that what she’s seeing is similar to what’s gone on in other states in which marriage equality was law before the Obergefell ruling. After a few weeks of hand wringing, she said, the dust settles.

      “When you’re a public official, you have to fulfill your duties,” Roberts said. “Your personal views don’t trump those duties.”

    • Chuck Roast

      Article VI of the Constitution clearly establishes that any law passed by congress or by the states must be “in pursuance” of the Constitution. When the 4th Amendment was ratified by the majority of the States, and the balance of the amendments known as the “Bill of Rights” was incorporated into the United States Constitution, (and subsequently the 14th Amendment adopted “….in pursuance of the laws…” of the United States) became inarguable, that is is unconstitutional (unlawful) for any State to make or enforce any law which abridges an immunity or privilege of a citizen of the United States. The court may not have heard the case, due to it being utterly preposterous to claim a “no knock” warrant is “legal”. Or, the leftists on the Court, not caring at all for what the Constitution actually says and means, may have decided we have enough intellectually vapid, mouth breathing government indoctrination victims (i.e., former public school “graduates”) which have been conned into believing that the Supreme Court “decides” the meaning of “Constitutional” law.
      As an example, the Court once found that the children of blacks could never be considered “citizens” due to the Court “finding” in the Dredd Scott decision, that the Founders didn’t mean for blacks to ever be citizens, despite the Constitution saying absolutely ZERO about that issue.
      The Republic is doomed, due to our allowing schools to spend exactly no time whatsoever, educating elementary school students about the Constitution.

    • Jon DiCsre

      This tactic should only be used when a life is in imminent danger in the home. It poses undue risk to officers and law abiding citizens.

      • Jim Stevens

        Exactly right. This is how an individual’s Constitutional rights are balanced against Law Enforcement officer’s safety.

        It is a logical absurdity that one or more of a citizen’s Constitutional rights are lost when they exercise another Constitutional right such as the 2nd Amendment.

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    • AMVET_66

      Another reason the police want a list of owners … to use this tactic on every occasion, whether its true or not is irrelevant since the action was already taken and damage or death of occupant was past. Its just another end run around that Obama is teaching all the left from coast to coast to avoid problems with the Constitution.

    • Liberty Seeker

      Laws, judicial orders, warrants, and all legal instruments that are in conflict with the Constitution do not have the force of law, and are illegal. Those who craft such laws, who order that those who are in “violation” of such laws be deprived of their freedom, or punished in any way, and those who carry out and or enforce these orders can and should be prosecuted for their crimes. “I was just following orders”, from a historical perspective, hasn’t worked out very well for those making this claim.

    • Fed Up

      How many cops will have to die as a result of no-knock raids before the cops will wise up? Why don’t they wait for their suspects to go to the grocery store or something? As soon as they walk out the door, slap the cuffs on them.

    • hungedu

      The nature of such raids is unconstitutional anyway, regardless if a knock ever takes place. The reason the United States is having these legal snafus is because recently created unconstitutional laws are clashing with the founding principles that all American laws were meant to uphold. The two different ideals cannot co-exist.

      • clint

        I agree. I would add that they used the wrong lawyer for the appeal. I don’t know who handled the case in trial court, but if a Rutherford Institute lawyer did so, it is likely that mistakes were made there as well as on appeal. Top notch criminal lawyers are needed for this type of matter from beginning to end. Believe me, there are some great lawyers in Texas who would have maximized the chances of success in this matter. That is my opinion.

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