Another appeals court undermines the Second Amendment

  • 20 March 2017
  • NormanL
Another appeals court undermines the Second Amendment

A second federal appeals court has ruled that the exercise of one's Second Amendment rights negates their protections under the Fourth Amendment. The case comes out of the 11th Circuit, and has startling implications not only for our rights, but for government accountability:

Pay close attention, citizens of the Eleventh Circuit (that’s Alabama, Georgia, and Florida). If you exercise your constitutional right to keep and bear arms in your own home, agents of the state who show up at the wrong house and don’t announce themselves can kill you with legal impunity, even if you are retreating — and even if you point your gun at the ground.

As Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern notes in an excellent piece about the ruling, this is now the second federal court of appeals (the other being the Fourth Circuit, in an opinion I wrote about in January) that has essentially held that exercising your Second Amendment rights means diminishing your Fourth Amendment rights. In fact, that Fourth Circuit opinion was so broadly written that exercising your Second Amendment rights means that gun-owning citizens, in the words of a concurring judge, can even “face greater restriction on their concurrent exercise of other constitutional rights, like those protected by the First Amendment.”

Stern urges the Supreme Court to “step in” and affirmatively declare that the exercise of one constitutional right cannot diminish the protection of another. He’s right. And he’s also right that this is “an area where liberals and conservatives should be in agreement.”

Again, this is not a case in which an officer faces jail time for a fatal mistake in what he thought were dangerous circumstances. Instead, it’s a case in which judges held that an officer was immune from even possibly paying compensation to the family of the man he wrongly killed. The judges of the federal court of appeals slammed the courthouse door in the face of aggrieved citizens without even granting them the right to stand in front of a jury and make their case.

The circumstances of this case were complicated. There was conflicting testimony over what happened, but the end result was a federal court pitting constitutional rights against one another -- and deciding the exercize of one meant the other simply didn't apply.

We would hope and expect the Supreme Court to untangle the mess the lower courts have created, and re-establish that rights protected in the Constitution are not subject to a sliding judicial scale.