A Louisiana man is victorious in a court battle over a Ruger SR9.
It seems he was arrested on a weapons charge after it was determined he’d been adjudicated as “mentally defective.” That’s one of those ways you can lawfully lose your right to keep and bear arms.
The gun was discovered after an altercation just a few days after the El Paso shooting, but those charges were eventually dismissed, but he was eventually convicted on the weapons charge.
There was just one problem with the conviction. It shouldn’t have happened and was eventually overturned.
ATF agents investigating whether Tucker should have his right to own a firearm stripped due to mental illness pulled Louisiana Department of Health records that showed he was involuntarily committed to a mental health facility in November 2011. A doctor who evaluated Tucker during that stay diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia and declared him a danger to himself and to others, according to federal court records.
Prosecutors from the East Baton Rouge District Attorney’s Office intended to introduce those medical reports during a hearing in state court last week, when Tucker sought the return of his seized semi-automatic Ruger SR9 model 9mm pistol and two 16-round magazines.
Citing a 2022 opinion from the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned his conviction in federal court and vacated his sentence, Tucker successfully argued that despite the physician’s diagnosis, no judicial official has ever determined he should be prohibited from owning or possessing a gun because of mental health concerns.
“The Fifth Circuit made a determination that any type of adjudication for a mental defect must be a court ruling, not just that you read a medical record and you determined that I was mentally deficient,” Tucker told District Judge Will Jorden during the hearing Wednesday inside the 19th Judicial District Courthouse. “We’re not allowed to just make assumptions about a person’s mental deficiency without a court ruling.”
The determination that Tucker was, in fact, right.
You see, Tucker was declared a danger to himself or others, but not by a court. A doctor reached that determination, which led to his involuntary confinement for mental illness. A single doctor, however, can be wrong and the evidence was never presented in court.
So no, you cannot take someone’s rights based on one person’s word.
After all, people are wrong all the time. This is why that pesky “due process” thing is a thing in the first place. Without it, a lot of innocent people will lose their freedom, which is essentially what happened here.
However, the DA in the case thinks the problem is that the legislature just hasn’t infringed on rights enough.
District Attorney Hillar Moore agreed that Jorden’s hands were tied and he made the only ruling he legally could under current law. In an age when mass shootings have become increasingly commonplace, Moore said, Tucker’s case is emblematic of the delicate balancing act prosecutors and law enforcement officials must maneuver when dealing with gun owners who have a documented history of mental illness.
“We do believe there are limited circumstances where someone forfeits their rights to possess weapons, whether by an intentional act or some other thing beyond their personal control like mental health or substance abuse,” Moore said during a phone interview Friday.
“It is a line that we have to walk and eventually, the Legislature of Louisiana is going to have to decide if and when you can temporarily prohibit or dispossess someone of a weapon under quick circumstances, to be followed by a court hearing,” he added.
The thing is, Tucker’s case actually illustrates that yes, you can take guns from people under certain circumstances. That wasn’t really a matter of dispute in Tucker’s case.
What was up for debate, though, is whether Tucker retained his rights or if the criteria had been met to strip him of them. The Fifth Circuit decided that no, a single doctor saying he was a danger wasn’t enough to permanently strip him of his right to keep and bear arms. That’s the line that has to be met, and the state legislature isn’t going to change that.
Nor should it.
So, because the gun was taken from Tucker over a bogus charge, the state is ordering that gun returned, as it should be. The government should return property to those who were wrongfully charged.
The big issue, at least in my opinion, is that Tucker had to go to court to compel them to return the gun in the first place.