Calif. Returns Husband’s Guns That Were Confiscated After Wife’s Voluntary Mental Health Visit — But They Still Haven’t Returned One Important Thing

Liz Klimas
The Blaze

In mid-March Lynette Phillips' home in California was visited by police who were there to confiscate her husband's firearms and ammunition because she had spent three days in the hospital (checked herself in) for mental health reasons, making her ineligible under the state's law to possess guns.

Nearly, The Blaze has learned, the firearms were returned to the family a month ago -- but not the ammunition.

TheBlaze spoke with Phillips about the process of retrieving her husband's guns and with her lawyer about why hundreds of dollars of ammo might not have been returned.

California gun confiscation
California gun confiscation

Firearms seized during recent Los Angeles Police sweeps, with the help of the California's Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS) initiative, are displayed at a news conference with California Attorney General Kamala Harris, not seen, announcing the state's efforts to reduce gun violence at the Los Angeles Police headquarters in Los Angeles Friday, May 17, 2013. APPS is an online database that identifies persons who own or possess a firearm, and who subsequently become prohibited from possessing a firearm due to a history of violence, or because the person is suffering from mental illness. (Photo: AP/Damian Dovarganes)

"It was basically waiting and paperwork," Phillips said of the process, which took several months since the firearms were confiscated from her home in March by nine police in bulletproof vests with the Department of Justice.

"It's a process, unfortunately, we should never have had to go through in the first place," Phillips said, echoing a sentiment she expressed to TheBlaze after the firearms were initially taken.

At that time, Phillips told TheBlaze her husband was "upset that they took the right from us that should never have been taken."

Why? Because Phillips explained that she had admitted herself to a hospital in December at the suggestion of her psychiatrist when she had reacted to an adjustment to her medication and could not stop crying. Here's what TheBlaze previously reported of that situation:

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.

But Phillips was kept for 72 hours, which according to California's Welfare and Institutions Code section 8100 meant she could "not possess or have under...her control any firearm."

One of the three guns confiscated at the time was registered to Phillips. She had purchased it for her husband as a gift.

Since going through the paperwork to have the firearms reinstated to him, she told us they had to pay $19 to transfer one into his name and then another $20 to have it returned in general. She described where they picked up the firearms as an "unmarked building" in Riverside, California.

They are missing, however, what she estimates to be $400 to $600 in ammunition for the firearms, a critical component considering the nationwide ammunition shortage.

TheBlaze spoke with her attorney Chuck Michel who said he's not surprised the ammunition was withheld at the time the guns were returned. He said most police departments have a policy in place that doesn't allow both to be returned at the same time.

"The thing that they're worried about is that the person loads up the gun in the lobby," Michel said in a phone interview. "I understand that."

Michel said Phillips could have pushed to get the ammunition back. Phillips worried, though, that because she still technically doesn't have her gun rights reinstated that she could be prosecuted, so she left the ammo issue alone.

"Is it worth it to pursue? I decided no," Phillips said.

TheBlaze contacted California's DOJ for more details on its policy regarding return of ammunition but did not receive a response at the time of this posting.

Although Michel said he understands why the ammunition might not have been returned alongside the firearms, what he doesn't understand is the process that got Phillips in this situation in the first place.

"This is the biggest problem with the mental health thing," he said, "They keep everyone for up to 72 hours because they're afraid of getting sued."

There also were other missteps that occurred that now have Phillips in a position where she will have to appear before a judge in a hearing -- likely with a statement from a psychiatrist stating that she isn't considered a threat to herself or others, even though she was never diagnosed to be this by a doctor in the first place -- to have her right to own a firearm restored.

California's law also gets to the problem that many have been wrestling with when it comes to firearms and mental health: How does a doctor decide that someone is mentally ill enough to have this right revoked?

"How do you determine when someone is crazy or mentally unstable enough?" Michel asked. "It's a hard societal issue to come to grips with."

Check out photos taken by Bloomberg news from the night the firearms were confiscated by Phillips home.

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