Just last week, the California Senate approved a $24 million funding bill to expedite the process of collecting guns from owners in the state who legally acquired them but have since become disqualified due to felony convictions or mental illness.
Such was recently the case for one woman, who had been in the hospital voluntarily for mental illness last year that she says was due to medication she was taking. Lynette Phillips of Upland, Calif., told TheBlaze in a phone interview Monday she had purchased a gun years ago for her husband, David, as a present. That gun, as well as two others registered to her law-abiding husband (who does not have a history of felonies or mental illness), were seized last Tuesday.
"My husband is upset that they took the right from us that should never have been taken, Phillips told TheBlaze.
But according to the state of California, that doesn't matter.
"The prohibited person can’t have access to a firearm” regardless of who the registered owner is, Michelle Gregory, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, told to Bloomberg News.
According to the Los Angeles Times last week, budget cuts created a backlog of 19,000 people in the state with more than 40,000 guns that they are no longer legally allowed to own.
Such a Prohibited Armed Persons File is created through the Office of the Attorney General. When a person is entered into the Automated Criminal History System, the Consolidated Firearms Information System is also checked to see if they might have possession of a gun. The same check is conducted for those involuntarily admitted into the hospital for mental illness as well.
Bloomberg reported that nine police with the state's Department of Justice wearing bulletproof vests and carrying Glocks went to homes on March 5 to retrieve the guns from people who, under this law, were no longer allowed to own. The Phillips family was one of them.
Phillips told TheBlaze the authorities arrived in unmarked cars Tuesday night around 8 p.m. Seeing as how she had never been in trouble with the law before, when they asked to enter, she said "sure," not thinking to ask for a warrant. This gun confiscation law doesn't go so far as to give officers warrants to enter property without permission.
Phillips explained that she and her husband were seated at their dining room table and questioned about the firearms. Phillips showed authorities where the weapons were located -- a handgun in the top dresser drawer and two rifles in a safe in the garage. After Phillips unlocked the case in the garage, she said officers pulled her away from the guns and back into the house.
"They weren't mean," Phillips said. "I know they were just doing their job."
But it's a job Phillips said that never should have had to be done in the first place.
Phillips told TheBlaze she had an adjustment to her medication in December and could not stop crying. Her personal psychiatrist suggested she go to Aurora Charter Oak Hospital in Covina, Calif., where she said she was admitted voluntarily, not a threat to herself or others. Then, when she reviewed her file, Phillips said the nurse had recorded that she was involuntarily admitted and indicated she might be a suicide risk. Phillips claims the nurse had put words into her mouth.
"I kept telling her I had a grand-baby at home and had to be better for Christmas," she said. "Does that sound like the words of someone who is a risk to themselves and others?"
Phillips believes -- and noted online reviews of the center should substantiate her claims -- that the process at the psychiatric hospital was a joke. Bloomberg contacted the hospital for a response regarding Phillips' admittance but had not received a reply.
Still, the issue of patients potentially being misdiagnosed speaks of the larger implications of the laws that might apply following such a hospital admittance.
"Let's see if we can't prevent this from happening to someone else," Phillips said, calling what has happened since she was in the hospital a "snowballing" effect.
"I do feel I have every right to purchase a gun,” she told Bloomberg. “I’m not a threat. We’re law-abiding citizens.”
She also pointed out the length of time it took before authorities had come to collect the firearms.
"This happened in December," Phillips said. "I asked them at what point where they notified. They said between 24 to 48 hours after I was in the hospital."
As Phillips pointed out, if she were truly a risk to herself or others, the authorities didn't claim the guns in timely fashion. Timeliness could be what the state senate's new funds for the collection of such firearms could be for. Some disagree, though, with where the new money is coming from. According to the LA Times, the $24 million would be made over three years from a fee paid for by those registering their guns in the state.
Bloomberg reported, according to state records, around 2,000 firearms, 117,000 rounds of ammunition and 11,000 magazines were collected under the law last year.
As for the Phillips family being reinstated with their firearms, she said they have to wait 30 days while an investigation is underway before she can appear in front of a judge who will determine her competency.
"What they are investigating, I have no idea."
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