California man has guns returned after they were wrongly pinched over pot possession case 44 years ago

44 years ago, Michael Merritt was convicted for marijuana possession. It was a misdemeanor crime, and Merritt recalls spending several weekends in jail and paying a $100 find for his transgression. In any sane world, this would have been ancient history. Unfortunately, Merritt doesn’t in live in a sane world, but the out-of-control confiscatory socialist Hell the rest of us know as California.


Merritt recently had agents of the state’s Armed and Prohibited Persons System show up on his doorstep, and seized 18 guns from his home after bluffing their way inside.

Merritt said that was the night of Nov. 5. Several agents arrived at his door and started asking questions about which guns he owned.

“I thought, he’s here to get my guns for some reason,” Merritt described. “He says, ‘You have a felony here from 1970.’ I said, ‘A felony? A pot possession charge from 1970.'”

The gun owner said the officers showed him a print-out of the charge. It lists the offense under a code of 11910, from a Los Angeles community. Merritt said he remembers the incident from more than 40 years ago, and he doesn’t think the charge is on the books now.

“Doesn’t exist anymore,” Merritt argued. “I mean, it’s a ticket now days.”

Eyewitness News checked the penal code, and 11910 doesn’t show up.

Merritt also disputed whether the charge was ever a felony.

“I truly, honestly don’t remember pleading guilty to any felony,” he said. “The jail time was like five weekends.”

He remembered getting probation and a fine of about $100.

Merritt said the agents still took the guns. They seized five registered handguns, plus some weapons his wife owns and some he’d inherited.

The couple protested, but didn’t get far.

“We told them to leave the house and go get a warrant, and they said that’s fine,” wife Karla Merritt said.

“But, when we get the warrant and we come back, you’re going to jail,” agents reportedly told the couple.

Michael Merritt said he had to get to work, so they let the agents take the guns.

The agents were with a special state unit tasked with checking the lists of registered gun owners against databases showing people who are not allowed to have weapons. It was set up under a 2001 law, Senate Bill 950, which created the Armed and Prohibited Persons System (APPS).

“APPS cross-references five databases to find people who legally purchased handguns and registered assault weapons since 1996 with those prohibited from owning or possessing firearms,” reads a fact sheet from the office of Attorney General Kamala Harris.


Did you catch all that?

At least some of the  five databases used by APPS obviously have bad data in them, which isn’t uncommon.

What is uncommon—or at least should be uncommon—is that the APPS agents themselves are apparently box-checking yes-men that didn’t have the common sense to suspect that a pot possession charge from 44 years ago that isn’t even a crime anymore wasn’t likely to be a felony.

Instead, being the good little government drones that they are, the APPS agents didn’t even slow down to question the data, and instead went into “bad cop” mode. Though they didn’t have a warrant, they bluff/threatened Merritt and his wife, saying that if they had to come back with a warrant, they’d be arrested. Faced with that disgusting  (but all too common) tactic, the Merritts relented, and the APPS agents left with not only Mr. Merritt’s guns, but those belong to Mrs. Merritt on what seemed to be very dubious legal grounds.

Eventually, APPS figured out their screw-up and returned all 18 guns to the family, but as J.D. Tuccille of Reason notes, this only raises more questions:

It’s nice—commendable really—that agents bothered to dig through the records after the fact, and then actually admitted their mistake. You have to wonder if that’s because the poor quality of the records isn’t exactly a revelation to officials, and this is not an unexpected outcome.

But how many screw-ups do they miss? Or just not admit?

And how many people “legitimately” get their guns grabbed because a politician arbitrarily decided that some relatively innocent act (pot possession?) should be classified a felony, and those people got caught doing it back before sideburns were ironic?

Then there’s mental illness. Does that really belong on the list? Only about 4.3 percent of people with a “severe” mental illness are likely to commit any sort of violence, according to a University of Chicago study. But among the Californians who have had their guns grabbed is a woman, Lynette Phillips, who suffers from anxiety disorder.

This year, California started registering all gun owners and the guns they buy. As I’ve written, the ways in which government officials misuse and abuse gun registration records is an excellent incentive to ignore the law and keep your guns unregistered. Michael Merritt might agree.


Read that last paragraph again.

Law purposefully designed to infringe upon basic human rights are giving otherwise law-abiding citizens very good reasons to ignore laws in order to protect their constitutional and natural rights, and at the same time, undermine the legitimacy of both the law, and the lawmakers.

Down this path lies either tyranny if the citizenry folds to the wishes of too-powerful government, or anarchy and rebellion as citizens decide to go the route of Irish Democracy.

Government can make all the absurd demands in the world, but in the end, it becomes powerless when enough citizens that absurd rules no longer apply to them.

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