DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The debate over mental health and its relation to gun rights rages across the country, but when has it gone too far?
A lawsuit filed in Daytona Beach accuses the government of stealing in the name of protection.
While the plaintiff in this case chose to remain anonymous, his lawyer said the practice of taking guns from Americans citizens needs to be exposed.
"He is a combat veteran. He was having a bad night one night back in December," said Attorney Eric Friday, who is representing a young Daytona Beach man, identified only as A.B. in court papers.
His client called a veterans help line in December and told them he was having suicidal thoughts.
"The Daytona Beach Police Department came in to his home, and took him in to custody under Florida's Baker Act law. They also took approximately 20K of firearms and other gear from him home, and kept it in police custody," he said.
The lawsuit says A.B. was cleared immediately, and not committed to a psychiatric institution, but the police department refused to return his guns.
"Many of the sheriffs and police chiefs in this state are breaking the law by refusing to return fire arms that they have taken from people who were Baker Acted," he said.
According to a ruling by the Attorney General in 2009, police departments must return property to anyone who is found to be stable after a Baker Act.
"There are provisions in the law for them to file injunctions in court to keep possession of those weapons if they feel that this person is a danger to themselves or others. But they're not doing that," he said.
It's been almost 6 months since the police chief took A.B.'s property, and said he has no plans to return it to him.
Friday said he fears veterans who need help are not coming forward because they're scared the same thing could happen to them.
"We believe that veterans need to get the help they need, and they can't be afraid that their property and their rights are going to be taken away from them," he said.
The legislature is the only body that could make a law permitting police departments to keep guns that are confiscated from people who are involuntarily committed, but right now, there is no such law on the books.
First Coast News