The Supreme Court secured a major victory for gun rights Monday as it unanimously ruled that seizing firearms while someone is being monitored for suicide is unconstitutional.
The case centered around Edward Caniglia, whose guns were confiscated by Cranston, Rhode Island, police after he was taken to the hospital for a wellness check following a request from his wife, the American Bar Association Journal reported.
Caniglia and his wife got into an argument the previous night, where he expressed the desire to be shot and killed by her using his gun.
By ruling in favor of the Rhode Island man, the court noted an exception in the “community caretaking” exception to the Fourth Amendment, and that the doctrine should not apply to homes.
The First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston gave a broader interpretation of the clause, which ended up in a ruling against Caniglia.
Both the Supreme Court and the appeals court’s decisions brought about a discussion regarding the 1973 case of Cady v. Dombrowski, which dealt with police searching a car that was considered to be in their custody following an accident.
“Neither the holding nor logic of Cady justifies such warrantless searches and seizures in the home,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his opinion for the court.
“Cady held that a warrantless search of an impounded vehicle for an unsecured firearm did not violate the Fourth Amendment. In reaching this conclusion, the Court noted that the officers who patrol the ‘public highways’ are often called to discharge noncriminal ‘community caretaking functions,’ such as responding to disabled vehicles or investigating accidents. … But searches of vehicles and homes are constitutionally different, as the Cady opinion repeatedly stressed,” he continued.
“The very core of the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee is the right of a person to retreat into his or her home and ‘there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion.’… A recognition of the existence of ‘community caretaking’ tasks, like rendering aid to motorists in disabled vehicles, is not an open-ended license to perform them anywhere.”
Second Amendment activists rejoiced at the news, thanking the Supreme Court for the ruling:
“The right of the people ‘to keep and bear arms’ + ‘to be secure in their persons [&] houses’ = warrentless gun confiscation if you’re as #antigun as @CranstonPolice. Thank you #SCOTUS for defending our #SecondAmendment today,” Aidan Johnston of Gun Owners of America tweeted Monday.
— Aidan Johnston (@RealGunLobbyist) May 17, 2021
Big victory today for the 2nd and 4th amendments as SCOTUS ruled 9-0 today that law enforcement can not enter our homes and unconstitutionally seize firearms without a warrant!
— Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) May 17, 2021
President Joe Biden, however, is likely not so happy. The Biden administration had filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court urging it to uphold the appeals court’s decision. The administration’s brief argued that warrants aren’t “presumptively required when a government official’s action is objectively grounded in a non-investigatory public interest, such as health or safety.”
Unfortunately, as Justice Samuel Alito noted in his concurring opinion, this case does not impact future red flag law cases, but he mentioned how they “may be challenged under the Fourth Amendment.”
The Fourth Amendment and its applications to private property have long been debated within the courts, and those cases have usually pertained to drugs or gambling, like in Katz v. United States.
Although many do not support the Second Amendment, police reform advocates should see Monday’s ruling as a victory for them too, as the court has restricted the power law enforcement has over citizens.
The preservation of the Constitution is necessary to assure individual rights in the United States, and the Supreme Court secured gun owners’ rights just a little bit more by limiting warrantless seizures.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.