On The Front Lines
Rutherford Institute Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Ensure that Lawful Gun Ownership Is Not a Trigger for ‘No-Knock’ Police Raids
WASHINGTON, DC — Warning against encroachments on the Second Amendment right to bear arms, The Rutherford Institute has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case of a Texas man whose home was subject to a no-knock, SWAT-team style forceful entry and raid based solely on the suspicion that there were legally-owned firearms in his household. Although police had obtained a search warrant for John Quinn’s home based on information that Quinn’s son might possess drugs, the warrant did not authorize police to enter the residence without knocking and announcing their entry. During the raid, Quinn was shot by police because he had reached for his lawfully owned firearm, thinking that his home was being invaded by criminals. In asking the Supreme Court to hear the case of Quinn v. State of Texas, Institute attorneys argue that making lawful gun ownership and possession grounds for police to evade the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment improperly penalizes and limits the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
“Whatever the issue might be, whether it’s mass surveillance, no-knock raids, or the right to freely express one’s views about the government, we’ve moved into a new age in which the rights of the citizenry are being treated as a secondary concern by the White House, Congress, the courts, and their vast holding of employees, including law enforcement officials,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. “The disconnect, of course, is that the Constitution establishes a far different scenario in which government officials, including the police, are accountable to ‘we the people.’ For it to be otherwise, for government concerns to trump individual freedoms, with government officials routinely sidestepping the Constitution and reinterpreting the law to their own purposes, makes a mockery of everything this nation is supposed to stand for—self-government, justice, and the rule of law.”
In August 2006, Collin County (Texas) police obtained a warrant to search John Quinn’s home based on information that Quinn’s son might be in possession of controlled substances. The warrant did not authorize police to enter the residence without knocking and announcing their entry. Nevertheless, based solely on the suspicion that there were firearms in the Quinn household, the SWAT team forcibly broke into Quinn’s home after he had gone to bed and proceeded to carry out a search of the premises. During the raid, Quinn was shot by police because he had reached for his lawfully owned firearm, thinking that his home was being invaded by criminals. The raid resulted in police finding less than one gram of cocaine, which Quinn was charged with possessing.
Lower courts rejected Quinn’s objection to the “no-knock” entry on the grounds that because police had information that guns were present at the residence, they were justified in making a forced and unannounced invasion into Quinn’s home. Although established Fourth Amendment jurisprudence dictates that police officers entering a dwelling must knock on the door and announce their identity and purpose before attempting a forcible entry, police may disregard the knock and announce rule under circumstances presenting a threat of physical violence or a danger that evidence will be destroyed.
In their petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, Rutherford Institute attorneys argue that in the absence of any evidence of actual danger to police, the legal possession of a firearm, as guaranteed by the Second Amendment, is not sufficient to justify allowing police to override the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unannounced “no-knock” home invasions when executing warrants. Affiliate attorney James A. Pikl of Scheef & Stone, LLP, in Frisco, Texas, is assisting the Institute in defending the rights of Quinn. The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties organization, provides legal assistance at no charge to individuals whose constitutional rights have been threatened or violated.