While the role the police play in maintaining public safety remains undisputed, they still retain some exceptions that raise eyebrows within the second amendment circles.
Some of the exceptions conflict with the long-established constitutional provisions such as the protection from unwarranted searches and seizures. Despite the obvious conflict with the 4th amendment, many lower courts continue to exonerate officers who confiscate people’s firearms without following due process.
Under “exigent circumstances” and “emergency aid” exceptions police are arguably justified in entering people’s homes to prevent a crime or assist an occupant in need of emergency aid.
However, the “community caretaking” exception allows them to engage in activities that would normally require probable cause and a subsequent search warrant. This violation of the fourth amendment is allowed because it is considered beneficial to the community. However, the scope of application, for example, where it applies to private homes or cars makes it more contentious.
Regardless, all the exceptions require that the responding officers carry out their interventions “reasonably.”
One such case, whose outcome may set precedence, is before the Supreme Court. In Caniglia v. Strom, the plaintiff engaged in a fiery argument with his wife when he retrieved an unloaded firearm and placed it on the table. His wife was justifiably convinced of the threat and dared him to shoot her. Caniglia left for a drive but another argument ensued when he returned.
The wife left and tried to contact him later, but he sounded upset, according to her. Concerned about his safety, she contacted the officers through a non-emergency number, who accompanied her to the couple’s home.
The officers ordered Caniglia to take a psychological evaluation, which he passed. Returning from the hospital, the plaintiff found that the officers had confiscated his firearms after lying to his wife that he had consented. They had also searched his home without a warrant when the wife told them that he owned firearms.
After avoiding several 2A challenges, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Caniglia v. Strom gun confiscation case on March 24, 2021. Caniglia sued for the violation of his Second and Fourth Amendment rights. However, the lower courts, including the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, rejected his argument. The court based its decision on the community caretaking exception.
“At its core, the community caretaking doctrine is designed to give police elbow room to take appropriate action when unforeseen circumstances present some transient hazard that requires immediate attention. Understanding the core purpose of the doctrine leads inexorably to the conclusion that it should not be limited to the motor vehicle context. Threats to individual and community safety are not confined to the highways.”
The outcome of Caniglia’s case could prove the gun community right regarding unwarranted searches and gun seizures.
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