- ‘Government may not target and seize specific individuals without any particular suspicion’
The Firearms Policy Coalition on Friday issue a statement praising a ruling from the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court that overturned a precedent that allowed police to “stop and frisk” individuals based on the fact they were carrying a firearm, and thus presumably potentially dangerous.
The court’s ruling said “the government may not target and seize specific individuals without any particular suspicion of wrongdoing, then force them to prove that they are not committing crimes.”
“[The case] Hicks’ position is supported by several amici curiae, including members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, Firearms Owners Against Crime, the Firearms Policy Coalition, and the Firearms Policy Foundation. Hicks amici argue that the [prior precedent] is contrary to this court’s precedent and to the general teachings of the Supreme Court of the United States’ Fourth Amendment jurisprudence. Amici further point to numerous decisions of the courts of other states and federal appellate courts that have addressed the specific question at issue here, and which have held that mere possession of a concealed firearm provides no basis for an investigative detention,” the opinion stated.
“Stop-and-frisk practices that harass gun owners who carry for lawful purposes including self-defense, like the one at the core of this case, are unconstitutional, bad public policy, and dangerous,” said FPC President Brandon Combs.
“We are thrilled that the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania agreed with these fundamental principles and issued such an incredibly positive decision in favor of constitutional rights.”
Kim Stolfer of Firearms Owners Against Crime said, “We are thrilled to have participated in this case. The Commonwealth’s position, that the ‘mere sight’ of a firearm, with no criminal act, ‘justifies’ arrest and detention at gunpoint, is constitutionally repugnant and unjustified. Today the court rightly held as much.”
The organizations had argued their case in the court, and brief author Joshua Prince, explained, “the court, in dismissing the Commonwealth’s position, declared that to permit investigative detention solely to determine whether someone is properly licensed is ‘ultimately untenable, because it would allow a manifestly unacceptable range of ordinary activity to, by itself, justify … stops.’”
At issue was a disagreement over whether someone’s decision to carry a firearm could be used as reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct. That would then justify police actions including “stop and frisk” of the gun owner, for nothing other than have the weapon.
The case was Pennsylvania v. Michael Hicks, and the court found that “stop and frisk” practices are important because they maintain a balance between privacy interests and law enforcement needs.
It requires two conditions to be met: a reason to stop someone that falls under the Constitution, and a reasonable foundation for a suspicion on the part of the officer that the person could be armed and dangerous.
The previous precedent allowed officers, based solely on a person’s possession of a weapon, to seize an individual. But that was overturned.
In this case, Hicks was licensed to carry concealed, but was confronted when a surveillance camera operator saw his gun in his waistband, covered by a shirt.
He was then confronted by gun-waving officers, jerked from his vehicle and disarmed, all before officers found out he was acting legally.
The court’s ruling found out he was deprived of the protections of the both the U.S. and state constitutions.