Federal court rules carrying a gun means surrendering your 4th Amendment rights

The Fourth Circuit Court has ruled that a person carrying a firearm in West Virginia - a state where carrying firearms is legal - has effectively foregone a portion of their constitutional rights because they are carrying a firearm. OK, it's a mite more complicated than that, but the net-net of the Fourth Circuit's ruling reverses an earlier option that "reasonable suspicion that a person is armed does not by itself give rise to reasonable suspicion that the person is dangerous."

That was the original finding of a three-judge appeal panel asked to hear if the Fourth Amendment rights of "Robinson" (the defendant in United States v Robinson) had been violated after his having been stopped by police after an unidentified tipster reported a black man who had "loaded a firearm, placed it in his pocket, then entered a car as a passenger and driven away" from a location in a particularly crime-ridden area. A mile or so later, a vehicle matching the description was spotted by police. When the officer noticed neither Robinson nor the driver were wearing seat belts- a traffic violation- he stopped the vehicle. The situation escalated from there, with the officer and his backup subsequently arresting Mr. Robinson, despite the fact they testified that at no time did he seem to pose a threat to them. 

Robinson used the fact he'd posed no threat to the officers as the basis for a claim that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated. And a three-judge appeals panel agreed. But the Justice Department asked the entire Fourth Circuit Court to rehear the panel's decision.

That led to a decision the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) says "epitomizes the disordered thinking that leads to useless and persecutory gun control". In the rehearing, the Fourth said the issue in the case was, in fact, "whether a law enforcement officer is justified in frisking a person whom the officer has legally stopped and whom the officer reasonably believes to be armed, regardless of whether the persona may legally be entitled to carry the firearm."

The majority found that "the risk of danger is created simply because the person, who was forcibly stopped, is armed." In other words, "the presumptive lawfulness of an individual's gun possession in a particular State does next to nothing to negate the reasonable concern an officer has for his own safety when forcing an encounter with an individual who is armed with a gun and whose propensities are unknown."

In other words, the tip that Robinson might be armed was enough to justify their frisking Robinson- and didn't violate his Fourth Amendment rights. And in that decision, they essentially admitted that they felt all persons armed with a gun posed a per se threat to police officers . 

In a concurrent opinion, Judge James A. Wynn excoriated the majority for having focused on "weapons" rather than firearms specifically. "individuals who carry firearms —lawfully or unlawfully— pose a categorical risk of danger to others and police officers, in particular" he wrote. 

Because of that, Wynn believed that "individuals who choose to carry firearms (therefore) forego certain constitution protections afforded to individuals who elect not to carry firearms."

He didn't stop there, writing that "individuals who choose to carry firearms necessarily face greater restriction on their concurrent exercise of other constitutional rights, like those protected by the First Amendment."

Judge Pamela Harris, whose three-judge panel was overturned in the Fourth's ruling didn't waste time on the implications of this ruling: "insisting on a concurrent link between 'armed' and 'dangerous" undoubtedly will have implications for police use of force as well. If a police officer reasonably believes that a subject poses 'a threat of serious physical harm,' he may use deadly force to protect himself."

Under that reasoning, Judge Harris wrote, "the legal right to carry arms is perfectly self-defeating."

No word on whether Robinson will appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Republished from The Outdoor Wire.

Additional Information:

Federal Appeals Court’s Shocking Pronouncement: Lawful Gun Carriers Must Forfeit Other Rights

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