No-knock warrants and the Second Amendment

The police shooting death of 22-year old Amir Locke, a legal gun owner and concealed carry holder killed during the execution of a no-knock warrant in Minneapolis last week, has prompted protests and a renewed debate about the use of no-knock warrants.

One of those critical of the practice; Bryan Strawser, chairman of the MN Gun Owners Caucus, who joins today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co to talk about the Locke case and the dangers presented by no-knock warrants to both legal gun owners and law enforcement.

The 2A group was quick to criticize the incident on social media after the story broke last Friday, and Strawser says he and other members got plenty of flack from folks accusing them of “go[ing] full BLM and Antifa” for the organization’s initial statement, which read as follows:

While many facts remain unknown at this time, information indicates that Amir Locke was a law-abiding citizen who was lawfully in possession of a firearm when he was shot and killed by Minneapolis Police on the morning of February 2nd.
“As seen in the body-worn camera video released by Minneapolis Police, Mr. Locke appears to be sleeping on the couch during the execution of a no-knock warrant, “ stated Bryan Strawser, Chair, Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus. “He is awoken with a confusing array of commands coming from multiple officers who are pointing lights and firearms at him.”
“Mr. Locke did what many of us might do in the same confusing circumstances, he reached for a legal means of self-defense while he sought to understand what was happening, “ added Rob Doar, Senior VP, Governmental Affairs.
Mr. Locke was not a suspect in the crime for which the warrant was issued and was not named at all in the search warrant.
“The tragic circumstances of Mr. Locke’s death were completely avoidable, “ stated Doar. “It’s yet another example where a no-knock warrant has resulted in the death of an innocent person. In this case, as in others, the public should expect and receive full transparency and accountability from law enforcement agencies that serve and protect our local communities.”
“Amir Locke, a lawful gun owner, should still be alive, “ added Strawser. “Black men, like all citizens, have a right to keep and bear arms. Black men, like all citizens, have the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable search and seizure.”
The Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus expects a transparent and independent investigation into the circumstances of this tragic incident.
Interestingly, Strawser says that as far as he can tell, not one of the criticisms or pieces of hate mail that the group’s received since last Friday has come from a current or former member or anyone who’s ever contributed money to the organization’s 2A efforts. That suggests to me that concern over no-knock warrants isn’t limited to “woke” gun owners or those on the left, but is something that many conservative gun owners may be uneasy with as well.
And for good reason. I don’t think being opposed to the routine use of no-knock warrants makes you anti-police. In fact, one of the reasons why I oppose the use of these warrants except in extraordinary circumstances is because they can increase the risks to police as well as those on the receiving end of a warrant.
In December 2013, Henry Magee shot and killed a police officer during a pre-dawn, no-knock drug raid on his home. He was initially charged with capital murder, but he argued that he shot the police officer, who he thought was an intruder, to protect his pregnant girlfriend. In February 2014, a grand jury declined to indict him, and charges were dropped.
That’s just one example, but there are plenty more to be found. And it’s worth noting that not only did the St. Paul police investigating a homicide originally request a knock-and-announce warrant (a request rejected by the Minneapolis PD, which was the agency serving the warrant) on the property where Locke was killed, according to Strawser the St. Paul police haven’t executed a no-knock warrant in several years. In Minneapolis, on the other hand, Strawser says a majority of the warrants served last month were of the no-knock variety.
Clearly the utility of these warrants (at least when they’re used on a routine basis) is up for debate within law enforcement itself, and I’m sure that there’s a divide as well among in the broader universe of gun owners. You can count me among those who see more dangers than benefit to the routine use of no-knock warrants; not because I want to hamstring police or make their jobs more dangerous, but because the use of no-knock warrants in a country where we have the legal right to use lethal force to protect our lives in our home can only increase the danger to everyone involved.