Unexpected Help from the Supreme Court
Unexpected Help from the Supreme Court
By James Dark, TSRA Executive Director
The recent Supreme Court decisions that were announced on June 27th provided much fodder for national news sources, and some of these decision effected Texas directly. For example, the controversial decision about eminent domain seizures prompted Governor Rick Perry to uncharacteristically broaden the agenda of the ongoing Special Session of the Legislature so that Texas lawmakers could attempt to dull the effect of this decision. However, there is one case that may have eluded the radars of most gunowners, the Colorado case of Castle Rock v. Gonzales. While the case was not directly about gun laws, it created a chilling effect on the concept of American citizens being defended from harm by criminals.
In 1999, Jessica Gonzales obtained a restraining order against her estranged husband Simon. Shortly thereafter, Simon abducted their three daughters. After repeated pleas for assistance, police visited the home and decided that Simon was nonviolent, and the questions surrounding his access to his daughters by court order needed to be decided by the courts, not the police.
The next morning, Simon Gonzales appeared in front of the Castle Rock Police Department and began firing a gun indiscriminately into the building. Not surprisingly, he was immediately killed by return fire. In his truck, his three daughters were found shot to death.
Jessica Gonzales sued the Town of Castle Rock, claiming that her and her daughters had been denied due process under the 14th Amendment.
In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court ruled citizens of the United States do not have a constitutional right to police protection, even when a restraining order has been issued. The language of one of the cited court cases is telling indeed. In the 1982 case of Bowers v. DeVito, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeal stated that “there is no Constitutional Right to be protected by the state against being murdered by criminals or madmen.”
Justices on both sides of the opinion, even those dissenting, were united in the belief that police protection is not a constitutionally protected entitlement.
Justice Scalia, in the court's opinion, stated, "our cases recognize that a benefit is not a protected entitlement if government officials may grant or deny it at their discretion." This clearly recognizes that law enforcement by its very nature is a profession that relies on discretion by enforcing officers.
In a nutshell, the Supreme Court has effectively said that self-defense is the job of each and every citizen.
I have had conversations with many law enforcement officers on the subject of protecting citizens. I have heard a virtually universal opinion that their main focus is to bring perpetrators to justice, to investigate, etc. Most police officers will freely admit that they often arrive on the scene after the damage has been done. Most criminal offenses occur quickly, and are over even before 911 is called.
The fact that the highest court in the land has ruled that we should not rely on the police for protection makes a number of things very important. We should redouble our efforts to ensure a reasonable and universal “shall issue” Concealed Handgun Licensing system throughout the United States. No citizen should be deprived of this right.
We should redouble our efforts to encourage everyone to prepare to defend themselves. Laws or policies impeding gun ownership are no longer acceptable, if they ever were. Groups that oppose gun ownership, citing the protection offered by law enforcement, should be referred to this decision.
But very importantly, we should realize that the Supreme Court has, at least indirectly, done us a huge favor. Freedom-loving, gun-owning Americans will seldom see a decision by this court that so effectively takes the legs out from underneath our opposition.
The argument that we don’t need to protect ourselves, that the police will be there for us, has been jettisoned unceremoniously out the window.
And I’m OK with that, because I never bought it anyway.
As the ramifications of Castle Rock v. Gonzales gradually sink in, I expect we will see a renewed interest in firearms ownership. Much like Americans felt threatened, and headed to gun stores in record numbers in the days following the 9-11 attacks, I expect we will see a renewed interest in self-defense.
We have long argued that every American has an inherent right to self defense as one of our basic human rights. The Supremes have, with this opinion, have made it abundantly clear that every American is in the driver's seat regarding their own safety.
The Police Chief of Castle Rock opined that the Gonzales case “points out the much larger problem in this country…with restraining orders. They do not protect society from the Simon Gonzales’ of the world.”
In this the chief is absolutely right. The Supreme Court has made it clear that it is a fool’s errand to rely on the police as your sole source of protection. Jessica Gonzales’ experience shows us that relying on court restraining orders is equally futile. In fact, in most cases, they are likely not worth the paper they are written on.
I will hold with the opinion that two other pieces of paper will be far more valuable in defending me and my loved ones.
Those are my concealed handgun license, and the target from my latest trip to the range.