A bureaucratic mix-up has caused a 70-year-old New York veteran to be labeled as mentally ill, and to have his gun confiscated.
Don Hall, a 70-year old who served in the Vietnam War, was contacted by the police, who burst into his home and confiscated all 6 of his guns (four long guns, and 2 hand guns).
When he asked them why they were doing this, he was told by the police that they have never been a part of action where the other party did not know about why they were being targeted. Naturally, this caused Don much confusion and distress – and he pleaded with police that he was innocent of any crime.
He tried reasoning with the police and said that he was never treated for any mental diseases nor did he have any mental illness, but his guns were confiscated nevertheless.
Hall was simply told that he must have done something to trigger the SAFE – Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, this is when he decided to seek professional legal help.
Hall and his lawyer both thought that the confiscation was a result of a report filed under the SAFE Act as per the police, however the New York Office of Mental Health told that the confiscation was a result of federal law which states that the hospitals are required to report any mentally ill person to the state, so that their guns can be confiscated.
As per his lawyer’s advice, Hall started a thorough search of all the local hospitals in an attempt to certify that he has never been treated for any mental illness in the past nor was he suffering from any mental illness.
As he, and his legal team were contacting nearby hospital clerks to find out what happened, they found the culprit. Don Hall was unjustly listed as mentally ill, when a hospital bureaucrat mistook him for someone with the same names and s slightly different Social Security numbers. Hall recognized the social security number from the one shown by Police on the confiscation papers.
John Panzone, Hall’s Lawyer said, “I’m surprised it sailed through the way it did with a man who has a spotless record … To me, presumption of innocence is the foundation of our system, and this provision doesn’t allow for that.”
Eventually, Hall and his lawyer were able to explain the unusual situation to Oneida County Judge, Michael Dwyer, that it was a classic case of mistaken identity, and the confiscated items must be returned. The case was in Hall’s favor and Dwyer ordered the guns to be returned to their owner.
Commenting on the case, the National Rifle Association (NRA) said that the confiscation was clearly a result of bureaucratic incompetence. “While Don Hall eventually got back his firearms, he had to spend considerable time and money to establish his innocence, and none of the entities or officials involved are taking responsibility for the mistakes that led to the seizure, much less offering to compensate him for his efforts and trouble … And for every person like Don Hall with the means and determination to challenge arbitrary and unjustified government action, there are surely many more who will simply cut their losses without putting up a fight,” said the group regarding the case on a website.
New York’s Office of Mental Health is now under investigation over the cause of this mistake.