Fourth Amendment, meet Second


Conventional wisdom holds that the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) occupy opposing sides of the political spectrum. But as the Supreme Court recently discovered, the conventional wisdom does not always reflect reality.

The NRA and the ACLU have joined forces in the case of Messerschmidt v. Millender to protest a November 2003 search warrant executed by a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department SWAT team at the home of 73-year-old Augusta Millender. The SWAT team stormed Millender's home looking for her foster son, Jerry Ray Bowen, who was wanted for assaulting his girlfriend and was allegedly threatening her with a "black sawed-off shotgun with a pistol grip." Bowen hadn't lived with his foster mother for 15 years, and the officers did not find him there that day. But they did find and confiscate Millender's legally owned shotgun, which she kept for self-defense and which did not match the description of Bowen's gun.

The issue before the Supreme Court is whether the sheriff's deputies should have realized the warrant they obtained, which allowed them to seize any firearms in the home, was unconstitutionally overbroad. In separate friend-of-the-court briefs, the ACLU and NRA each argue that the search clearly violated Millender's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.