Thursday night, I was flipping through the channels at about 10:30. Lou Dobbs was discussing gun violence with Bill O’Reilly so I thought I’d take a moment to hear what they’d have to say.
O’Reilly said that background checks were good but that it was necessary for legal gun owners to register guns. Then he said something that frightened me and angered Dobbs. O’Reilly said that there should be a law that gave a 10 year mandatory sentence to people who didn’t register their guns. Here’s O’Reilly’s explanation/’justification’ for his law:
O’REILLY: But if you had the registration and the cops went out and stopped and frisked and grabbed the gun, that’s a 10 year penalty.
Later, he said that this would be done as a preventative measure. There’s just one sticky problem with O’Reilly’s law. It’s unconstitutional. The first time it got challenged in the Supreme Court, it’d be ruled unconstitutional with a near-unanimous vote. The Fourth Amendment prohibits searches of this kind. Here’s the text of the Fourth Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
I’m not a constitutional attorney but I’d argue that requiring probable cause to be proven prohibits ‘preventative searches’.
Imagine police being able to search a person without obtaining a warrant. Without the Fourth Amendment’s protections, law officers would be able to go anywhere and search for anything at any time for any reason. That isn’t American. That’s what Third World dictators do in a police state. It’s what they did in the former Soviet Union or Saddam’s Iraq. It’s what they’re doing in China and North Korea.
I don’t doubt that Mr. O’Reilly’s intentions are sincere. There’s no question in my mind that he genuinely wants to protect children from gun violence. That said, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. O’Reilly is a reactionary. He doesn’t think things through. It isn’t likely that he ever will.