Judge rules Navy officer can't be denied gun permit

Judge rules Navy officer can't be denied gun permit
AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

The state of Hawaii is considered paradise by many, but not if you want a firearm. Among the requirements is a gun permit.

For one Navy officer, though, he was denied one because he’d sought treatment for depression due, at least in part, to homesickness.

Now, a federal judge says that can’t happen.

U.S. Navy officer stationed in Hawaii cannot be denied a firearms permit solely because he sought counseling for feeling depressed and homesick, a federal judge ruled.

Michael Santucci, a cryptologic warfare officer from Fort Myers, Florida, saw a medical provider at a military hospital for feelings of depression and homesickness a few months after arriving in Hawaii last year, according to his lawsuit, filed in April.

He wasn’t diagnosed with any disqualifying behavioral, emotional or mental disorder, the lawsuit said.

Kevin O’Grady, one of Santucci’s lawyers, said the case was “illustrative of Hawaii’s strong opposition to anything that approaches the free exercise of the Second Amendment.”

But Honolulu and the state will need to take the high court decision into consideration when overhauling the process to ensure others aren’t precluded from obtaining permits based on disclosing previous mental health counseling, said Alan Beck, another attorney representing Santucci.

“What the judge is saying is Honolulu is misapplying the law. They’re getting Hawaii law wrong,” Beck said. “If you marked ‘yes’ on counseling, then you’ve lost your gun rights.”

This was clearly the right call and for a lot of reasons.

Obviously, one is that Santucci’s rights were completely and totally trampled on.

Yet another is the precedent this kind of thing sets for people.

When someone is experiencing any kind of mental health issue, you want them to go and get help. Santucci was feeling down, so he went and got some treatment. He was open and honest with law enforcement, legitimately believing he was doing the right thing.

And as a result, his guns were seized and he was denied his Second Amendment rights, even though the Navy didn’t feel he was a danger in any way.

Absolutely ridiculous.

What would happen as a result of that, though, is that people who are having mental health issues might opt not to seek help out of fear they could lose their ability to get or maintain a gun permit. As a result, they don’t get the treatment that might prevent them from harming themselves or others.

Look, I recognize that not all mental illnesses are created equal. There’s a vast gulf between someone with some mild depression and someone who says their coffee table is telling them to kill people.

The problem is that gun permitting rules like Hawaii’s pretends there isn’t any such difference. They treated Santucci’s mild depression because he was cut off from his friends and family as if he were getting murder instructions from his toaster.

We want people to get help. Or, at least, we should.

Hawaii’s gun permitting scheme, though, isn’t anything but an effort to keep as many law-abiding citizens from getting guns as is humanly possible. It’s about trying to find reasons to deny gun permits.

And in this case, it bit them in the posterior.

Now, Santucci will get his permit and his guns back, as he should.