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D.C.’s "Voluntary" Gun Search Program Raises Concerns

Friday, March 14, 2008

It’s quite a quandary for the leaders of our nation’s capitol.  They govern a city that has had an outright ban on handguns for more than three decades, yet they’re constantly looking for panaceas for the District’s high rate of gun crime.  How ironic it is that a city that should be an anti-gunner’s utopia is constantly plagued with “gun violence.”  While dismissing logic and burying their heads in the sand, these leaders continue to try to avoid the unavoidable conclusion:  Criminals don’t obey the law and have been ignoring the gun ban since its inception.  Only the law-abiding obey the law.  

Enter their latest attempt at a remedy—the so-called  “Safe Homes Initiative.” 

Last November, we reported on a similar sham-program being considered in Boston.  As with that program, D.C. police will soon begin asking parents and guardians to allow “voluntary” searches of their homes and children’s (or other relative’s) bedrooms for firearms—without notice or warrants.

While parents and guardians have the right to refuse the search, questions of constitutionality, intimidation, and civil liberties have rightly been raised.  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, despite assurances of amnesty, could include arrest and prosecution. 

As reported on Washingtonpost.com, Arthur B. Spitzer, legal director of the Washington office of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said the program is “a very bad idea.”  Spitzer said that officers might act so aggressively that residents feel coerced into letting them in.  “It sends the message to the public that the police ought to be able to search your house anytime for any reason.  People will be intimidated. That cheapens civil liberties and privacy for everyone.” 

The program is scheduled to start on March 24.

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