Democrat President Joe Biden’s administration pressed the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a warrantless gun confiscation this week when the nation’s top court heard oral arguments in Caniglia v. Strom.
The case started after Edward Caniglia, 68, got into an argument with his wife, Kim, in 2015 that ultimately ended up with the police seizing Caniglia’s firearms. After fighting, Kim went and stayed at a hotel and later contacted law enforcement, believing that her husband might hurt himself. Edward did not have a criminal record or any history of self-harm.
Still, police were convinced that Edward could hurt himself and insisted he head to a local hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. After refusing and insisting that his mental health wasn’t their business, Edward agreed only after police (falsely) promised they wouldn’t seize his guns while he was gone.
Compounding the dishonesty, police then told Kim that Edward had consented to the confiscation. Believing the seizures were approved by her husband, Kim led the officers to the two handguns the couple owned, which were promptly seized. Even though Edward was immediately discharged from the hospital, police only returned the firearms after he filed a civil rights lawsuit against them.
Police never claimed that their actions were in response to an emergency or to prevent imminent danger, and instead argued that their actions were a form of “community caretaking.”
Forbes noted that the Biden administration urged the Supreme Court to side with the police, saying “the ultimate touchstone of the Fourth Amendment is ‘reasonableness,’” and that official warrants should not be “presumptively required when a government official’s action is objectively grounded in a non-investigatory public interest, such as health or safety.”
Even leftist Justice Sonia Sotomayor appeared to take issue with what happened, noting, “there was no immediate danger to the person threatening suicide and no immediate danger to the wife because the suicide person [sic] was removed to a hospital.”
Sotomayor said that she did not have a problem with the man being forced to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and noted that the issue was police “going into the home without attempt to secure consent from the wife and seizing the gun and then keeping it indefinitely until a lawsuit is filed.”
“The wife tried to get it back. He tried to get it back. Weeks and weeks went by,” Sotomayor noted. “When we permit police to search and seize without some standard, we run the risk of situations like this one repeating themselves.”
Forbes separately reported:
This risk featured prominently in the amicus briefs filed by gun-rights advocates. “Expansion of the ‘community caretaking’ exception into the home will be used by police in jurisdictions with onerous or constitutionally-questionable firearm restrictions to turn every call to a house into a search for guns under the pretext of ‘helping’ those present,” warned a joint amicus brief filed by the Second Amendment Law Center, the California Rifle and Pistol Association, and Gun Owners of California. Simply put, “the Fourth Amendment has no ‘gun’ exception.”
Although Caniglia v. Strom centers around seizing guns from someone suspected of being suicidal, its reach will be much, much broader. Should the Supreme Court adopt the Biden Administration’s argument that “the Fourth Amendment permits a warrantless seizure or home entry that is reasonably necessary to protect health or safety,” such public health and safety concerns could “become a pretext for law enforcement,” argued Shay Dvoretzky, who argued for Caniglia before the High Court.
The report noted that Justice Neil Gorsuch slammed the idea that government officials could secure so-called “administrative” warrants as an alternative, asking, “If the government can just get an administrative warrant to come in to test for illness, to check the temperature of the house, whether it’s too hot, too cold … what’s left of the Fourth Amendment?”