A new Arizona court ruling has found that police are allowed to temporarily take custody of a civilian’s firearm for the officer’s safety. Surprisingly, this ruling also applies if a civilian’s contact with police is voluntary.
The ruling comes after a gun owner who was appealing a firearms misconduct conviction argued that his firearm was wrongfully taken by Phoenix police when he chose to talk to them in a high-crime area.
One Arizona law allows police to confiscate weapons during encounters with people. If police approached a person to ask him questions about a suspected crime, for example, the police officers would be able to confiscate the weapon.
It was unclear, however, whether or not that law applied during willing interactions with police. If somebody approaches a cop and asks about the weather, can police officers confiscate his weapon?
Yes, apparently. The Court of Appeals ruled that police can temporarily take the gun regardless of whether or not the interaction is consensual. That would mean that Arizona police can take a gun from a civilian at any time for any reason.
One dissenting judge argued that the Arizona law should only apply when the police have some reason to investigate a suspected crime or criminal. If the cops do have reason to believe that a person has committed a crime, then it is much more reasonable for the police officers to take his gun.
This ruling gives gun owners even more incentive to carry concealed weapons. If cops can grab a gun from a civilian on a whim, many gun owners would undoubtedly opt to keep their firearms hidden under clothes or inside of purses. Police theoretically wouldn’t be able to discover and confiscate a firearm without an unconstitutional frisk or search of a civilian’s person. Of course, some would argue that police are already violating the Constitution by taking firearms in the first place.
What’s your take on the story? Should officers be able to protect themselves by holding onto a gun for a short period of time? Or should cops keep their hands to themselves?