Bizarro World Second-Amendment Decisions

Bob Barr
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Posted: Apr 26, 2017 12:01 AM
Bizarro World Second-Amendment Decisions

In D.C. Comic’s fictional “Bizarro World,” all things are done opposite of here on Earth. According to the “Bizarro Code,” inhabitants of the cube-shaped planet “hate beauty,” “love ugliness” and consider it illegal to “make anything perfect.” Ironically, here on planet Earth, many liberals – and a disturbing number of judges – subscribe to a similar Bizarro Code when considering matters involving the Second Amendment. To these Earth-bound Bizarro Code adherents, it should be -- and in some cases is -- illegal to legally exercise the fundamental, constitutionally-guaranteed right to possess a firearm.

While the Supreme Court, and a number of other courts across the country, have made progress in recent years in rolling-back some of the more onerous restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms, the trend is by no means uniform; especially regarding concealed carry.

For example, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in January that mere lawful possession of a firearm poses a danger to society. Specifically – and incredibly – that court opined that there is an inherent risk in “a person who is armed even when the firearm is legally possessed.” While some may laud this ruling as a move to protect police officers facing armed suspects, its potential scope is far broader and more problematic.

The opinion opens the door for the search of any concealed carry permit holder, regardless of whether the individual ran a stop sign, was selling cocaine, or just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In effect, this federal court of appeals decision means that simply exercising one’s Second Amendment right to possess a firearm negates that person’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

As Slate Editor Mark Joseph Stern noted recently, the real-world consequences of the Fourth Circuit’s “logic” did not take long to play-out in another federal Circuit -- the 11th (which includes Alabama, Florida and Georgia). In March, that Circuit threw out a lawsuit against a Florida police officer who fatally shot an apartment resident who happened to be holding a lawful firearm when he answered the door late at night after the officer unexpectedly banged on the door. 

The gun owner’s only “crime” was legally having a firearm in his hand, inside his home, when answering an unexpected loud knock on his door late at night.

This is far from the only example of such Second Amendment perfidy by judges in recent years. In 2015, Corey Jones, who possessed a lawful concealed carry permit, was leaving a band gig at 3:00 AM when his car broke down in an undesirable part of town. When a white van with tinted windows pulled in front of him and a man wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and a baseball cap exited, Jones apparently grabbed his firearm.  This move to lawfully protect himself was answered without warning by the plain-clothed law enforcement officer driving the van, shooting Jones dead.  

These incidents hit close to home for all responsible gun owners; especially those who carry firearms for self-defense. These and many other such incidents illustrate not uncommon situations in which law-abiding individuals find themselves, and when having a firearm for self-defense is most needed. Yet, despite some progress on gun rights, a worsening problem within states and local jurisdictions due to wrong-headed court rulings, or simply bad police training, are placing gun owners directly in danger by criminalizing the very act of possessing a firearm.

The problem is made worse by the prevalence of data-sharing with so-called “Fusion Centers.” These largely unregulated centers take vast quantities of personal information on citizens that has been collected from both public and confidential sources, and disseminate it to law enforcement agencies at all levels across the country. Thanks to this growing, government-based “Dark Net,” firearms owners can look forward to more harassment; such as Maryland transportation police who stand accused of using concealed permit data that they apparently can access at the touch of a computer screen in their vehicles, to stop out-of-state drivers.

Rolling back this tide of anti-Second Amendment court decisions requires continued and aggressive efforts by the National Rifle Association (which is holding its annual convention in Atlanta this week) and other Second Amendment-focused civil liberties organizations.  They – and we -- need to support the appointment and election of judges, police chiefs, sheriffs, state legislators,  and members of Congress who live in and understand the real world and our real Bill of Rights; and who are not beholden to some Bizarro World Constitution in which “shall not be infringed” means “shall be infringed.”