The U.S. Supreme Court apparently has decided to let Americans choose between their Second and Fourth Amendment rights, leaving untouched a lower court decision that supported the use of a violent SWAT attack on a man’s home because authorities were concerned about the mere presence of a weapon.
The Rutherford Institute represented John Quinn, who was shot in the no-knock raid by officers because he thought his home was being invaded by criminals and reached for his weapon.
They were appalled that the reason the officers chose to conduct a violent no-knock raid was based on the presence of a firearm, as if the weapon “could somehow load itself, disengage its own safety, open the door, and begin to fire at the police.”
Quinn was targeted by police because his son – who was suspected of possessing drugs – lived in the same home. His son was absent, and police records reveal officers knew that fact when they broke into Quinn’s home in a no-knock, SWAT-team style forced entry.
Rutherford said the decision lets stand a lower court ruling that “essentially makes lawful gun ownership and possession grounds for police to evade the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment and improperly penalizes and limits the Second Amendment right to bear arms.”
“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,’ said John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute and author of “A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State.”
“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.”
The case began in August 2006 when police in Collin County, Texas, obtained a warrant for Quinn’s home. Lower courts rejected Quinn’s objection to the no-knock entry on the grounds that because police had information that guns were present at the residence, they were justified in making a forced and unannounced invasion.
Quinn’s advocates argued that the tradeoff – of Fourth Amendment rights for Second Amendment rights, was improper.
“Although police had obtained a search warrant for John Quinn’s home based on information that Quinn’s son might possess drugs, the warrant did not authorize police to enter the residence without knocking and announcing their entry. During the raid, Quinn was shot by police because he had reached for his lawfully owned firearm, thinking that his home was being invaded by criminals,” Rutherford explained.
The friend-of-the-court brief agreed.
“John Quinn lawfully kept firearms in his home for self-defense, exercising a freedom which this court has recognized to be a ‘core’ and ‘fundamental’ right protected by the 2nd Amendment. Yet based on the presence of firearms alone, the police conducted a no-knock raid, smashing down Quinn’s front door in the middle of the night, leading to his being shot,” the brief explained.
“The police knew that Quinn’s son, Brian, the target of the raid, was not at home, and they knew that Quinn was a law abiding man. Indeed, the state of Texas had certified him as such by licensing him to carry a concealed weapon. Yet the Texas court embraced the prosecution’s theory that the police were in such grave danger from a sleeping man and an inanimate object that they were permitted to dispense with 4th Amendment requirement to knock on the door and announce themselves.”
The attorneys argued: “At common law, a person was presumed a trespasser if he was present on the property of another without permission, as the police were in this case. Thus, the police needed to justify their presence in Quinn’s home. Although they had a warrant to search the home, they did not have any valid legal justification for using a battering ram to get through the door, making them nothing more than trespassers.”
The brief warned that if “police are now permitted to justify no-knock raids any time there is a firearm in a residence, no American home is safe from a terrifying, middle of the night, home invasion.”