President Joe Biden is urging the Supreme Court to let law enforcement officers seize guns and other firearms from citizens, despite not having a warrant. This comes despite the fact that the Fourth Amendment protects citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures.”
The Biden administration has released its first amicus brief to the Supreme Court. In the brief, it urged SCOTUS to uphold a ruling made by a lower court in Caniglia v. Strom. The said case had a dubious claim, indicating that a gun owner could pose as a danger to himself. This was used as the supposed grounds that let authorities take the gun owner’s firearms despite not having a warrant. Regarding this case, the lower court ruled that the action can be considered an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement.
According to a report by Forbes, SCOTUS heard oral arguments connected to the case on Wednesday.
In an earlier report by Forbes, the Biden administration’s brief claimed that warrants are not “presumptively required” if the authorities’ actions were made on the grounds that it is in a “non-investigatory interest,” which includes health and safety.
Additionally, the Justice Department’s brief mentioned that qualified immunity is enough to protect the police officers who seized the gun in the case.
Biden asks SCOTUS to Consider Ruling on a Case
Last summer, Democrats in Congress tried to stop qualified immunity for police officers. They argued that this measure would protect officers and agencies involved from having any liability. Now, however, the Biden administration thinks it’s okay for cases involving seizing weapons.
The case referenced dates back to 2015. As per the Forbes report, Edward and Kim Caniglia had a marital dispute. After the argument that lasted for an hour, Edward stormed to the bedroom and got an unloaded handgun. He then went to the kitchen and placed it on the table. Edward then asked Kim why she just wouldn’t shoot him to get him out of his misery.
The dispute went on until Edward Caniglia left to try and cool off by driving around. After he returned, the fights still continued. Kim then decided to leave and spend a night at a hotel. However, when she called home the next day, Edward did not answer.
Because of this, Kim called authorities for a wellness check. When they went to talk to Edward, they thought he looked normal and calm. The authorities also thought that Edward would never be capable of committing suicide.
Lapses in Law Enforcement Actions?
With this, a member of the group of officers said that when they interviewed Edward, they did not consult any criteria that are psychological or psychiatric in nature. Authorities also failed to ask about his history, particularly whether he had criminal records or background of violence and self-harm in connection to mental health issues.
Nevertheless, the authorities believed that the risk of suicide was there. They wanted Edward Caniglia to go to a psychological evaluation. Caniglia refused at first but decided to go with it when authorities say they won’t confiscate his weapon.
However, the authorities lied to Caniglia and his wife, claiming that he agreed to the seizures. This persuaded Kim to point officers to where they keep their two handguns.
When the authorities seized the weapons, they did not cite any emergency or any instance where preventing imminent danger was necessary. Instead, according to Nick Sibilla from Forbes, the law enforcement officers touted their action as some sort of “community caretaking,” which has become a narrow exception to the warrant requirement stipulated in the Fourth Amendment.
Expanding the Warrant Exemption
This exception first surfaced in a case filed back in 1973 in Wisconsin. In the 1973 case, officers responding to an accident involving drunk driving believed that the drunk driver had a police revolver. Authorities did not find such a weapon in the man’s car. Instead, they found some items that led to the drunk driver’s conviction for murder. With regards to this, SCOTUS eventually ruled that the case needed an exception that allowed authorities to search the car without having a warrant.
The exception citing community caretaking, however, helped in giving law enforcement some room to do the right thing.
However, the lawyers representing Caniglia said that extending this exception to homes can prove to become “anathema to the Fourth Amendment” as it would provide law enforcement a “blank” check that they can use for an excuse to intrude upon a person’s home.
Although, the Biden administration does not agree with this. It argued that the basis for the Fourth Amendment exception“is reasonableness. In the brief, it is said that a warrant should not be “presumptively required” if the officer’s course of action is “objectively grounded” in non-investigatory public interest. This included health and safety.
Making Excuses For Confiscations Without Warrant
Officers could’ve found out whether Caniglia presented an “imminent risk” to himself if they asked for a proper evaluation. Trained practitioners could have easily pinpointed whether or not he posed a threat of self-harm or harm to others.
The current administration filed their amicus brief last month, on Feb. 18. Just two weeks after this filing, the administration lauded Democrats in the House of Representatives for reintroducing and passing a reform bill that would remove qualified immunity for police officers.
Justices seemed to have mixed opinions regarding the Caniglia case during Wednesday’s hearing.
Given this, the hypocrisy of the Biden administration regarding “qualified immunity” is on full display. Despite this, liberals do not show any interest in legal principles.
The case that the Biden administration has cited is just a blatant attack on due process just to push for the “community caretaking rule.”
With this, it seems apart from controlling Americans and their guns via legislation, Biden would not mind if SCOTUS helped law enforcement to enforce this as well.