May 19, 2021
By Mark Chesnut
The U. S. Supreme Court on Monday unanimously ruled that Rhode Island police officers who confiscated a man’s guns from his home without a warrant violated his constitutional rights in doing so.
In the case Caniglia v. Strom, Rhode Island police located and seized Edward Caniglia’s guns from his home while he was in the hospital for a mental health wellness check. Caniglia argued that the gun confiscation, which occurred without a warrant, violated his Fourth Amendment rights.
Cranston, Rhode Island, police, however, claimed their actions were protected under a “community care-taking” exemption to the Fourth Amendment. Such an exception permits officers to conduct searches for what may be described as “community care-taking function,” even when “there is no claim of criminal liability.”
While two lower courts ruled in favor of the police, the Supreme Court came down solidly on the side of the notion that the constitution protects the sanctity of a gun owner’s home without exception.
“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,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the court decision. “What is reasonable for vehicles is different from what is reasonable for homes. Cady acknowledged as much, and this Court has repeatedly ‘declined to expand the scope of ... exceptions to the warrant requirement to permit warrantless entry into the home.’”
Here are the facts of the case, according to court documents:
During an argument with his wife, petitioner Edward Caniglia placed a handgun on the dining room table and asked his wife to “shoot [him] and get it over with.” His wife instead left the home and spent the night at a hotel. The next morning, she was unable to reach her husband by phone, so she called the police to request a welfare check. The responding officers accompanied Caniglia’s wife to the home, where they encountered Caniglia on the porch. The officers called an ambulance based on the belief that Caniglia posed a risk to himself or others. Caniglia agreed to go to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation on the condition that the officers not confiscate his firearms. But once Caniglia left, the officers located and seized his weapons. Caniglia sued, claiming that the officers had entered his home and seized him and his firearms without a warrant in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
It’s interesting to note that the Supreme Court ruled unanimously on the sanctity of the Fourth Amendment as written, when nearly half the court doesn’t view the Second Amendment in the same literal manner. This ruling based on the Fourth Amendment might just bolster the Second Amendment in the long run, however.
Indeed, the ruling puts many so-called “red-flag” laws in jeopardy—and well they should be. Most such laws currently on the books and under consideration in both the states and at the federal level trample due process specifically as it relates to confiscation of firearms by the government.
“Provisions of red flag laws may be challenged under the Fourth Amendment, and those cases may come before us,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito, noting that the recent decision does not yet address those issues.
In the end, the unanimous decision that entering a person’s home without a warrant to confiscate firearms might just prove to protect the Second Amendment more in the future than many pure Second Amendment case victories do.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Don’t forget President Donald Trump’s statement: “Take the guns first, go through due process second…” – gun owners need to watch all politicians, even Republicans.]
Related Firearms News articles:
The Danger of 'Red Flag Laws'
Red Flag Laws Endanger You and Your Family
Ivanka Trump's Support of Unconstitutional Red Flag Laws: a Red Flag to Gun Owners
COVID-19 Emergencies Further Prove the Danger of Red Flag Laws
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for the past 20 years.