Picture yourself as a gun owner, chilling out at home after a long day at work. Suddenly, your world is turned upside down as armed men bust down your door.
If you’re like most gun owners, the first thing you’re going to do is reach for your firearm so you can defend yourself and your family. There’s just one problem, an issue you didn’t account for until after you got shot: The guys busting down your door are the police and they were serving a no-knock warrant.
Sounds far-fetched? It’s not. Just ask Amir Locke or Breonna Taylor.
Oh, that’s right. You can’t because they’re unfortunately dead, killed in no-knock raids. Locke was gunned down while reaching for his gun while Taylor was killed while her boyfriend fired back at law enforcement officers, unaware they were the police.
Now, a bill in Texas appears to be working its way through the system, and at least some backers are framing it as a Second Amendment issue. Reason reports:
The Texas House of Representatives last week overwhelmingly approved a bill that would sharply restrict the use of no-knock search warrants, which the state Senate is now considering. Both chambers are controlled by Republicans, and the bipartisan support for the bill suggests that many conservatives recognize the potentially lethal hazards of routinely allowing police to enter people’s homes without warning. That practice pits law enforcement priorities against the right to armed self-defense in the home, which the Supreme Court has recognized as the “core” of the Second Amendment.
H.B. 504, which state Rep. Gene Wu (D–Houston) introduced last November, passed the House by a vote of 104–33. It would require that all applications for no-knock warrants be approved by the police chief or a supervisor he designates. Municipal court judges who are not state-licensed attorneys generally would not be allowed to approve no-knock warrants. The officers serving the warrant would have to be in uniform or ‘otherwise clearly identifiable’ as police. If the bill passes the state Senate and is signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas will join Florida, Virginia, and Oregon in restricting this type of warrant.
‘No-knock warrants are really dangerous,’ Wu told Houston Public Media. ‘They’re just a bad policy. There’s no reason that you can’t announce that it’s the police coming into your door in the middle of the night.’ He said Texas conservatives ‘understand that you don’t really have a right to defend your home if you don’t know who is coming in.’
Of course, this doesn’t negate the potential problems. After all, there have been numerous cases of people posing as police during a home invasion, usually so as to get compliance from the residents.
However, the bill itself would go a long way toward helping prevent tragedies like Locke or Taylor, among others.
After all, if clearly uniformed officers identifying themselves as such bust in, you’re far more likely to accept that you’re dealing with the police. As such, you’re less likely to have people think it’s a home invasion and react accordingly.
We have a basic human right to defend ourselves from attack, but if we’re unable to know it’s the police showing up late at night, we have a problem. As Wu noted, the right to self-defense vanishes if you’re somehow forced to assume every busted door is the police.
‘But if you do nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear,’ some might note.
That’s terrible thinking, though. Neither Breonna Taylor nor her boyfriend were the target of the raid that ultimately claimed her life, nor was Amir Locke the target in that raid. Neither seemed to have any reason to believe they’d be subjected to a police raid. As such, those in those homes had every reason to believe they were the victim of a crime, at least at first.
The Texas law is just one of many seeking to address the issue of no-knock warrants, and I’m glad to see Texas make this step. I’m also glad to see Wu frame this as a Second Amendment issue, because it really is.
Our right to keep and bear arms is so that we won’t be subjected to tyranny or victimized by criminals.
Yet if I have to pause to make sure the bad guys busting through my door are, in fact, bad guys, well, we know how that is going to go. Texas is doing the right thing.
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