While there can be no doubt that police officers in Oshkosh, WI recently conducted a neighborhood search for a gunman who shot and wounded Officer Nate Gallagher July 17 with good intentions, there remain serious questions about the seizure of firearms from one of the residences without benefit of a warrant, the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) said today.
“We’ve reviewed all the information we could get about this case,” said SAF Founder Alan Gottlieb, “and we remain concerned that some innocent person’s firearms were removed from his home, without him knowing about it, and without benefit of a search warrant. Although these searches were reportedly conducted with consent of the homeowners, taking someone’s guns without telling him could be a serious legal breach, regardless of any concerns about catching an armed criminal.
“Police simply cannot get verbal consent to search, and then take property from a possible crime scene without a warrant, and without telling the owner,” he continued. “Authorities in Oshkosh aren’t helping matters any by sealing a search warrant obtained for one of the houses involved in the search, nor are police helping to allay concerns about the conduct of their neighborhood sweep by remaining silent.
“In situations like this,” Gottlieb observed, “the public has a right to know what went on. If law enforcement is seen to be stonewalling legitimate inquiries, it could lessen the public trust in their local police. That doesn’t help anyone but the criminal.
“Simply because someone has guns in his residence does not make him a suspect,” Gottlieb added. “If law enforcement has a legitimate reason to confiscate firearms, then they should wait for a warrant.
“It is our understanding,” he said, “that the firearms in question have been returned. Perhaps they should never have been taken in the first place. We want the gunman caught and prosecuted, but potentially trampling on the Constitution isn’t the best way to do that.”