Warning: Obama Might Have Just Figured Out How To Take Your Guns Away

President Obama announced that his Administration would do all in its power to stop gun violence. By that, he seems to have meant reducing private ownership of firearms. Now, it turns out that he is not just doing things within his presidential power to achieve that objective – he is usurping legislative power to amend statutes unilaterally.

On January 7, 2014, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF”) issued Proposed Rules designed to vastly increase the number of Americans prohibited from owning firearms, including many U.S. Veterans, by changing the meaning of words contained in laws passed by Congress.

On behalf of Gun Owners of America, Inc. and Gun Owners Foundation, our firm filed comments opposing those proposed ATF rule changes.

Federal law prohibits persons who have been “adjudicated as a mental defective” from owning firearms. ATF claims that the terminology Congress used in the statute is “outdated”; purporting to “clarify” the term, ATF instead wants to rewrite the statute, greatly expanding its scope.

ATF alleges that Congress intended the law to apply “broadly” to “unstable” and “irresponsible” people, and has defined the term as including people who suffer from a “mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease.” But that is not what the statute says. A “mental defective” is a person of “marked subnormal intelligence” or “gross ignorance or imbecility.” Congress never intended the law to apply to combat veterans suffering from PTSD, but that is one of the groups that have been targeted for disarmament.

Federal law also prohibits persons who have been “committed to a mental institution” from owning firearms. The ATF wants to change the meaning of that phrase to apply to “both inpatient and outpatient commitments.” Those are, of course, very different matters. Inpatient commitment is generally used when a person is unable to function in society and needs to be forcibly confined for treatment in order to protect him and/or the public. Outpatient treatment, however, is for less significant problems, and may require a person only to take medication or follow some other course of prescribed treatment.

Finally, our comments noted that the ATF never considered the Second Amendment when proposing its new definitions. After Heller, though, the government can no longer assume it may deprive people of their firearms rights at will. Instead of requiring a formal adjudication by a court before a person’s rights are taken from him, ATF has permitted unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats, such as those at the Veterans Administration, to decide willy-nilly who may and may not own guns.

This sort of lawless activity may be what Americans are accustomed to from this rogue agency, but it is not what they deserve. Government officials are the servants of the people, not their overlords.

Copyright © 2014 William J. Olson, P.C. All rights reserved.

Photo credit: tcsnews.com

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

Legal Fight Against No Knock Swat Warrants Explodes Into Open


Quinn v. Texas

Every day, we read about SWAT teams serving arrest warrants or search warrants at people’s homes, using no-knock raids in the middle of the night. Many of these police home invasions go wrong, with innocent people being shot, and sometimes killed, just because they were trying to defend themselves.  Even criminals have learned to claim that they are the police while breaking into homes, to discourage resistance.

An important case now presents the significant legal issue of whether police are justified in using no-knock home invasions simply because they know the occupants own a firearm.  On January 27, 2014, our firm filed an amicus curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in Quinn v. Texas, in support of the grant of a petition for certiorari, to obtain a review of this issue. http://www.supremecourt.gov/Search.aspx?FileName=/docketfiles/13-765.htm

John Quinn was asleep in his bed when Texas police broke down his door in the middle of the night, and shot him when he reached for a weapon, thinking his home was being invaded. The police were there to serve a search warrant for his son, Brian, who they suspected of dealing drugs.

The only justification for the no-knock raid that police gave was that John Quinn owned a firearm. The police claimed that firearms ownership was enough to present a danger to law enforcement, even though they knew John Quinn had a concealed carry permit — meaning the state of Texas had pronounced him to be a safe, law-abiding citizen.

It is a foundational Fourth Amendment principle that, when executing a warrant, the police must knock and announce their presence and purpose, and allow a homeowner the time to let them in. This principle is designed to preserve a person’s life (so he is not accidentally shot), his property (his front door), and his dignity (if, for example, he is in the shower). Only if the police have “exigent circumstances” has the Supreme Court permitted entry without knocking.

Our amicus brief pointed out that the police dispensed with the Fourth Amendment and executed a no-knock raid for the sole reason that Quinn had chosen to exercise his Second Amendment rights to keep a firearm in his home for self defense.

The Texas court held that it did not matter if the police violated Quinn’s rights with the no knock raid, since they would have searched his home and found drugs anyway. Our brief answers that in doing so, the Texas court essentially created a per se rule that, any time the police have a warrant, they can dispense with the Fourth Amendment, knowing that a court will later rule they “would have found it anyway.”

Finally, our brief noted the Court’s recent holding in U.S. v. Jones (a 2012 Supreme Court case in which we filed two briefs), where the Court returned to the private property roots of the Fourth Amendment, instead of the atextual “reasonable expectation of privacy” tests that had been invented in the 1960′s. The brief argued that, after Jones, the Court needs to re-examine no-knock raids from a property — rather than a privacy — perspective.

Our society is one where no-knock raids — supposedly the exception — have become the rule, due to aggressive, militaristic policing, and permissive courts. Often, innocent people, and even family pets defending their homes are caught up in the crossfire when police make mistakes. Having a rule where the police can break down a person’s front door simply because he may keep a firearm inside is simply intolerable.

Our brief was filed on behalf of: U.S. Justice Foundation, Gun Owners Foundation, Gun Owners of America, Inc., Lincoln Institute for Research and Education, Abraham Lincoln Foundation, Institute on the Constitution, Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund, U.S. Border Control Foundation, Policy Analysis Center, Downsize DC Foundation, and DownsizeDC.org.