Does Having a Gun Make a Person Suspicious? Courts Aren’t Sure Now.

It was 2:30 a.m. on Valentine’s Day last year when a detective watching a live camera feed from a major Queens thoroughfare spotted a man in a minivan who appeared to be holding a gun. The police said they had quickly arrested the man, Robert Homer, and found a loaded Glock pistol in his pocket. When they checked his criminal record, they saw that he had a sex trafficking conviction and was ineligible for a gun license under federal law.

The case is now in jeopardy after a federal judge in Brooklyn ruled on Feb. 5 that the police did not have probable cause to stop Mr. Homer. In the ruling, the judge, Nicholas G. Garaufis, cited a 2022 Supreme Court decision that found U.S. citizens have a broad right to carry concealed firearms. The case involving Mr. Homer is the latest test of gun laws in the state, where officials continue to grapple with how to square a legacy of strong gun control with the 2022 ruling.

The Supreme Court decision “has really upended America’s laws,” said Adam Winkler, a professor at U.C.L.A. Law. That it has come up in connection with Fourth Amendment questions about probable cause in the Homer case “just shows the profound impact that Bruen is having,” he added.

Full story: Does Having a Gun Make a Person Suspicious? Courts Aren’t Sure Now.

8 Replies to “Does Having a Gun Make a Person Suspicious? Courts Aren’t Sure Now.”

  1. It’s ironic that in a country that prides itself on the Second Amendment, individuals are being arrested merely for possessing a firearm and appearing “suspicious.” The Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms, yet its contradicted with unpredictable stops and arrests based solely on the presence of a gun. Not only can one’s innocence be undermined, but a move such as this can result in even more tension between the public and law enforcement (as if we don’t have enough). It can also be seen as selective enforcement practices being perpetuated. When it comes to probable cause, it’s easy to see how the officer didn’t have any, whether it be observational, circumstantial, based on his expertise, and/or information he’s gathered.

    The prosecutors’ standpoint on the judge’s ruling creating “a new legal standard for probable cause” is also understandable, as it blurs the line between officers arresting potentially dangerous people who should not have guns and having to release them if they aren’t immediately able to determine whether they have a gun license.

    1. I think with all the news coverage of the
      “epidemic” that is mass shootings in America law enforcement agencies are at the point where they aren’t taking any chances with someone with a gun even if that is a handgun of some sort. However there may be some sort of racial bias as many white men who carry firearms are not stopped for them carrying a weapon at least not ones publicly known. But what the prosecutor stated seems as if there is some sort of bias as what deems someone as suspicious? Because a social awkward kid can also seem suspicious because of the way he acts and let’s say a member of a motorcycle gang could be suspicious based on what he looks like.

    2. I completely agree with Jirah here, the irony is off the charts. There is an insane level of discretion as a law enforcement officer which makes “probable cause” a very imperfect term; there is no general consensus on what “acting suspicious” looks like and there never will be. If a founding principle of our country is the idea that we have a right to arms, the government can’t flip the script and then start arresting people. That being said, it is also dangerous to not apprehend people that may pose a genuine threat. If officers have the discretion to determine if a person is suspicious, they likely can also determine if that person is a genuine threat simply by talking to them; I think there is a line between doing nothing and arresting somebody, and treading that line could be the key.

    3. I agree with you. As a gun owner, there are several laws and rules that I’ve had to learn and follow so I can carry safely and lawfully. I have learned that some states have what’s called a constitutional carry meaning that you don’t need a permit to carry a concealed gun. I believe that this makes it difficult to determine whether or not that person can carry that weapon.

    4. That is a valid point. The United States not only prides itself on its Second Amendment but the country is known for its gun violence and amount of gun ownership from other country’s perspectives. We are viewed as a country of weapons, so having someone be targeted as suspicious for carrying one defeats the purpose of the amount of pride put into the amendment. This will create an even greater tension between citizens and law enforcement because the amount of individuals that carry a gun will outweigh the amount of individuals in law enforcement creating an uneven ratio for positive law enforcement and community relationships.

  2. When Robert Homer was captured on camera by a detective in NYC carrying a gun, he was arrested. Robert argued that the arrest was illegal and that the Bruen verdict permitted the possession and carrying of guns. In agreement, the judge dismissed the case. This calls into question how police work will be impacted by the Bruen ruling. What effect may the Bruen decision’s impact on probable cause have on the public’s trust in the discretion of law enforcement? The article mentions police concerns about officer safety and difficulty enforcing the law. Is it possible to find a balance between law enforcement’s obligation to protect public safety and the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms, particularly when someone is spotted carrying a gun in a high-crime area?

  3. Does the plausibility of suspicion based purely on gun possession violate our constitutional rights? Whilst we have the constitutional right to bear arms, with some limitations, gun ownership can occasionally be frowned upon. In the United States, we have been plagued with gun crimes and mass shootings, especially within the last few years, This has led to a cultural shift in our population, and a regulatory shift within our government. Despite these issues, the vast majority of gun owners are not criminals, and may have never committed a crime ever in their lifetime. Thus begs the question, doe the legal possession of a gun actually make someone suspicious, even when you consider that their right to do so is legal?

  4. This example has given me a lot to think about, do I think that a guy in a minivan with a loaded gun in his hand with a record of sex trafficking is a suspicious thing? Yes, I think so and so would pretty much everyone but does that give the cop probable cause to arrest him, absolutely not. In the United States, people have a right to defend themselves and bear arms according to the Second Amendment of the Constitution which states; ” A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” So maybe this time it seems like it’s not that bad if the guy was sex trafficking but what happens if more and more people look “suspicious” when they have arms and a lot more people start going to jail this can be a real problem for the future of our legal and criminal justice system.

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