The Biden administration and attorneys general from nine different states urged the United States Supreme Court to uphold warrantless gun confiscations, an extremely controversial law that would result in significant consequences for policing, mental health, and due process, Forbes first reported.
On Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court heard the oral argument of Caniglia v. Strom and whether the "community caretaking" exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement extends to the home.
In 2015, Edward and Kim Caniglia—husband and wife—had an hour long argument in their kitchen after Edward joked about something minimal. The argument escalated and Edward went into his bedroom, grabbed an unloaded gun, put it on the kitchen table in front of his wife and said "Why don’t you just shoot me and get me out of my misery?," thinking it would calm down the situation, Forbes reported.
As the tactic backfired, Kim Caniglia left the home to 'cool-off' and when she tried phoning home, Edward did not answer. Growing weary, she called the Cranston Police Department in Rhode Island and asked them to perform a 'wellness-check,' asking them to escort her home.
Cranston PD officers spoke with Edward and according to an incident report, he "seemed normal," "was calm for the most part," and even said "he would never commit suicide."
However, police officers still decided to transport him to the hospital to seek further psychiatric evaluation on the condition that officers would not confiscate his firearms if he agreed to go to the hospital.
According to the case, none of the officers asked Edward questions regarding his risk of suicide, risk of violence, or prior misuse of firearms. Officers later admitted he "did not consult any specific psychological or psychiatric criteria" or medical professionals for his decisions that day.
The Cranston PD officers allegedly lied to Edward’s wife Kim advising that Edward gave verbal consent they were allowed to seize the firearms. Due to their dishonesty, Kim led them to the firearms where they were then seized.
Edward, who was immediately released from the hospital upon arrival, only got his guns back after he filed a civil rights lawsuit against the officers which prompted them to return the firearms. The officers argued their actions were a form of "community caretaking," a narrow exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement, according to Forbes. After hearing the argument of the civil rights lawsuit, courts upheld the seizures as "reasonable" under the community caretaking exception.
The "community caretaking" policy was created by the United States Supreme Court in 1973, which was designed for cases involving impounded cars and highway safety, on the grounds that police are often called to car accidents to remove nuisances like inoperable vehicles on public roads.
In deciding Caniglia’s case, the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals acknowledged that "the doctrine’s reach outside the motor vehicle context is ill-defined." The court chose to extend that doctrine to cover private homes, ruling that the officers "did not exceed the proper province of their community caretaking responsibilities," Forbes reported.
The First Circuit indicated that a police officer "must act as a master of all emergencies, who is 'expected to…provide an infinite variety of services to preserve and protect community safety.'"
The community caretaking exception is "designed to give police elbow room to take appropriate action," the court added. "Extending the community caretaking exception to homes would be anathema to the Fourth Amendment" because it "would grant police a blank check to intrude upon the home," argued Caniglia's attorneys to the High Court in an opening statement.
According to a joint amicus brief by the ACLU, the Cato Institute, and the American Conservative Union "everything from loud music to leaky pipes have been used to justify warrantless invasion of the home."
"When every interaction with police or request for help can become an invitation for police to invade the home, the willingness of individuals to seek assistance when it is most needed will suffer," the brief said.
Going before the High Court, the Biden administration urged the courts to upholds the rulings of the First Circuit Court noting that "the ultimate touchstone of the Fourth Amendment is 'reasonableness,' and that 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."
"The ultimate question in this case is therefore not whether the respondent officers’ actions fit within some narrow warrant exception," the Biden Administration stated, "but instead whether those actions were reasonable."
The Institute for Justice (IJ) argued that the exception in the community caretaking to "allow warrantless entries into peoples' homes on a whim, invokes the arbitrary, looming threat of general writs that so incited the Framers" and would undermine "the right of the people to be secure" in their homes."
"The Fourth Amendment protects our right to be secure in our property, which means the right to be free from fear that the police will enter your house without warning or authorization," said Attorney Joshua Windham. "A rule that allows police to burst into your home without a warrant whenever they feel they are acting as ‘community caretakers’ is a threat to everyone’s security."
This case comes as tensions rise in the United States as the Biden administration cracks down on gun laws, getting further to their end goal of implementing strict gun control policies a well as enacting a ban on 'assault weapons.' Most recently, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled Wednesday that there is no 'right to carry (RTC)' both openly and concealed in the states of AK, HI, CA, AZ, OR, WA, & MT.
It's unclear what will come of these rulings, but it's evident the constitutional right of the Second Amendment is in jeopardy as the Biden administration seeks out further gun regulations.