We’re still waiting to learn what the Supreme Court will do with the challenge to a New York City gun law that it heard earlier this month, but we do know that the Court has now rejected an appeal in a Fourth Amendment case brought by a Pennsylvania county that challenged a state Supreme Court ruling involving police stops and concealed firearms.
The high court on Monday rejected a request by the Lehigh County District Attorney’s Office to review a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision throwing out its case against a man stopped by Allentown police after a camera operator spotted him tucking a revolver in his waistband outside a gas station.
Michael J. Hicks, who was licensed to carry the gun, wasn’t charged with a weapons offense, but he was convicted of drunken driving as a result of his June 28, 2014, encounter with police.
The May decision by Pennsylvania justices overturned a longstanding legal doctrine that an officer’s knowledge of a concealed weapon was a sufficient basis for reasonable suspicion to detain a person and investigate whether they have a license to conceal.
As the Pennsylvania court ruled, stopping someone simply because you think they have a gun is a no-no, especially given the fact that it’s perfectly legal for individuals to possess and carry a firearm in the state.
In dismissing the drunken driving charge against Hicks, the state Supreme Court said the rule that permitted the stop “subverts the fundamental protections of the Fourth Amendment,” against unreasonable search and seizure.
“When many people are licensed to do something, and violate no law by doing that thing, common sense dictates that the police officer cannot assume that any given person doing it is breaking the law,” Justice David Wecht wrote in the court’s lead opinion.
I think the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court made the right call in the case, but the prosecutor who appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court certainly thinks otherwise.
Heather Gallagher, chief deputy district attorney, called it a concerning decision.
“I think that it certainly implicates public safety. It makes law enforcement’s job in some ways more difficult,” Gallagher said.
I am a supporter of law enforcement, but that doesn’t mean I support a police state. The reason we have a Bill of Rights in the first place is to keep the government in check. Have you ever read the Preamble to the Bill of Rights? It’s pretty explicit about why the document was created.
THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.
Those “declaratory and restrictive clauses” weren’t restricting the rights of American citizens, but the powers of the American government. The job of law enforcement would be a lot easier if the 4th Amendment didn’t exist, but the right to be secure in your person and property against unreasonable searches and seizures would be null and void.
Keeping and bearing arms is a right, not de facto evidence of criminal activity. I’m glad to see the Supreme Court leave the Pennsylvania ruling, and the 4th Amendment rights of residents, intact.