Pennsylvania ordered to return guns to family of killer

Eric Fein killed a Pennsylvania state trooper in an ambush nearly eight years ago. He seriously injured another. This was part of a 48-day manhunt and the government wasn’t pleased with any of it for obvious reasons.

However, part of the state’s efforts involved seizing dozens of firearms.

Normally, this isn’t a shocking detail. If someone is accused of murder, their guns are generally seized by law enforcement.

The problem was, these weren’t the killer’s guns, but firearms belonging to his parents. Now, the state has to give them back.

Authorities in Pennsylvania have been ordered to return 46 guns that were seized from the parents of Eric Frein, the anti-government survivalist who ambushed two state troopers in the Poconos in September 2014, killing one of them and severely wounding the other.

During the manhunt for Frein, investigators seized the weapons cache from the gunman’s parents, Eugene and Deborah, who were not charged in connection with the shooting. After Frein’s 2017 conviction on murder and related charges, for which he was sentenced to death, his parents filed a lawsuit to recover the 46 guns that were held by authorities in Pike County.

The government had argued that it had a right to hold the weapons in case they were needed as evidence in Frein’s state and federal appeals. A lower court sided with Pike County prosecutors, but on Tuesday the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia decided in favor of Frein’s parents, the Associated Press reported.

The appellate court ruled that the state seized the Freins’ property without compensation, in violation of the Fifth Amendment, and hindered their right to keep firearms in violation of the Second Amendment. None of the guns were originally used as evidence in Frein’s trial.

Now, few would argue with taking Frein’s guns. However, his parents’ guns were basically seized because of the actions of a third party.

Frein was convicted and sentenced to death, so his trial is over–though his execution has been put on hold due to a moratorium on the death penalty in Pennsylvania since 2015–so there’s little need for evidence.

Further, their guns weren’t used as evidence by the state to begin with.

What happened here is that Frein’s parents were denied their constitutional rights not through their own actions, but through the actions of a third party. Even if he was their son, he was an adult when this occurred and they cannot and should not be punished for his actions.

Especially since no one argued that they were party to his crimes.

The state of Pennsylvania took those guns, but they had no authority to keep them. The court’s ruling is most definitely the right one.

What Frein did was awful. Few would dispute that.

Yet the state of Pennsylvania was essentially punishing his parents, all without any real due process, because of the actions of their adult son, and that’s not right. Now, the state has been ordered to give those guns back.

What bothers me, though, is that this even needed to go to court in the first place.