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Boston Gun Search Policy Raises Concerns

Friday, November 30, 2007

Boston Gun Search Policy Raises Concerns

Boston police may soon begin asking parents to allow searches of their homes and children’s bedrooms for firearms—without notice or warrants. 

Under the controversial “Home Safe” program, teams of police officers will be assigned to the city’s public schools and will seek out leads on students believed to have firearms.  Officers would then show up at the student’s home and ask to immediately search the premises, confiscating any firearms they find.  Officers are empowered to exercise their personal discretion should they encounter drugs or signs of other illegal activity.

While parents have the right to refuse the search, questions of constitutionality, intimidation, and civil liberties have rightly been raised.  

According to a November 17, MSNBC.com article, Thomas Nolan, a former Boston police lieutenant who teaches criminology at Boston University, deemed the program “an end run around the Constitution.”  Nolan further said, “The police have restrictions on their authority and ability to conduct searches.  The Constitution was written with a very specific intent, and that was to keep the law out of private homes unless there is a written document signed by a judge and based on probable cause.  Here, you don’t have that.”

There is also a fear that people may be too intimidated to deny police access to their homes, or may not understand the legal implications of their compliance with the search, which could include arrest and prosecution.

A November 27, Boston.com article reported that Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner has called for hearings to further review the program.  “We should not encourage our police department to engage in clever strategies that undercut the constitutional rights of every citizen,” Turner said in a statement.

Turner’s main concern is that police may not tell residents that they can refuse admittance.  He also suggests that a visit by three police officers could be a “subtle coercion of permission.”  

Of course, NRA is not alone in its concern over this activity.  A November 21, BostonNOW.com article reports that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has “serious concerns about the threat to civil liberties” as well.

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NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.