Second Amendment

Gun-Grabbing CA Cops Apologize After Relying on Faulty Database. Who Else Have They Screwed?

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APPS
California Department of Justice

Under California's Armed and Prohibited Persons System, state agents check databases of gun owners against those of people forbidden to own guns because they are, allegedly, "felons, individuals with history of violence (domestic violence/restraining order) or severe mental illness, wanted persons." An armed team then proceeds to the address of record for the prohibited person in question to ask, oh so nicely, of course, for any weapons to be surrendered. Questions over the validity of California's categories of "prohibited persons" aside, you might ask yourself what happens if the state's databases are in the usual, somewhat moth-eaten and incompetently maintained condition that tends to beset government toys? What happens to poor bastards who show up in there quite mistakenly—as happened when a goon squad descended on the home of Michael Merritt, over a marijuana possession charge from 1970?

Reports Carol Ferguson at BakersfieldNow.com:

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.

APPS agents aren't allowed to enter homes on their own say so, but they can play the usual law-enforcement trick if you tell them to go pound sand: threaten to come back later and really jack you up.

"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.

As it turns out, agents called Merritt a few days later to admit they'd made a mistake and to say they were returning his guns. The charge had, in fact, been a misdemeanor. But it had been entered incorrectly in the system.

Because it would have been totally cool to threaten him and steal his guns over a 44-year-old marijuana possession charge if it had really been a felony.

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.

See Reason TV's video, below, on the truth about mental illness and guns.

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  1. And this is why I will continue to ignore any and all registration scams. Especially since we’ve just had yet another legislator from the great state of New York indicted. the criminality rate among “lawmakers” here is higher than that of the populace at large. Anyone with sense should ignore what they say.

    1. I presume you’re talking about this legislator?

      Gotta love the corruption possibilities in liquor licensing.

      1. Wait, wait, wait. We’re charging politicians for lying now? Does this only apply to lying to the FBI, or is perjuring oneself in sworn testimony before Congress going to get prosecuted, too?

        1. Bill Clinton could do time?

    2. One could also argue that their desire to control others is a mental illness, too.

  2. it’s a sad world when you commend cops for actually doing their jobs after the fact because, presumably, having their shit together ahead of time is a bridge too far.

    1. Shoot first, double check the address later.

      1. Procedures followed.

    2. I was just thinking: And nobody got shot, beaten or jailed, so this is actually a heart-warming reason story about cops interacting with citizens who possess guns.

      1. No dogs were shot, so there’s that.

  3. Give the tools the officers they need to do the job. No, wait, I meant give the officers the tools they need to do the job. A database in the right hands will lead to utopia.

  4. I can assure you the officer is not all that concerned with trying not to offend you. He is instead concerned with protecting his mortal hide from having holes placed in it where God did not intend. And you, if in asserting your constitutional right to be free from unlawful search and seizure fail to do as the officer asks, run the risk of having such holes placed in your own.

    -Jack Dunphy

    1. whatever happened to that guy, just disappeared

  5. In other CA cop news.

    http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/05/…..d=5_things

    1. The two women were out delivering morning newspapers when they were shot. Beck said one of the officers mistook the sound of a paper hitting the ground as a gunshot and opened fire, followed by other officers also firing their weapons.
      “This was a tragic cascade of circumstance that led to an inaccurate conclusion by the officers,” Beck said.

      What in the holy fuck? The only tragic cascade of circumstance is allowing the ignorant, hopped-up meatheads out on the street with badges and guns.

      “Discipline could be anywhere from extensive retraining up to termination,”

      Translation – “Don’t do that again, now go out there and get ’em.”

      1. Discipline could be anywhere from extensive retraining

        NO NOT THAT ANYTHING BUT THAT PLEASE GOD OH NO THE PAIN

      2. Discipline could be anywhere from extensive retraining

        NO PLEASE NO! DO IT TO JULIA!

        1. What do you have against Julia?

          http://l.barackobama.com/truth…..-of-julia/

          1. She’s a fucking slaver.

      3. And what would have happened to a CCW holder if they had done the same thing?

        That needs to be the question asked every time cop shoots someone. We shouldn’t hold cops to a lower standard then we do everyone else.

        1. One would think they should be held to a higher standard given the higher level of training.

  6. Here’s what I don’t understand:

    Let’s say this guy had committed a felony in 1970.

    This is CLEARLY imposing an additional criminal penalty for the 1970 crime.

    Clearly.

    The guy has property. Police show up at his house and demand that he surrender that property…because he was convicted of a crime in 1970.

    There is simply no possible way to interpret that action but the imposition of a fine (the value of the property) for his criminal conviction in 1970.

    None.

    Can I declare that the new penalty for being convicted of disorderly conduct in Chicago in 1968 is life in prison, and round up everyone who was arrested at the Democratic convention and send them to camps? If not, why not? If not, why can I declare that the new penalty for smoking weed in California in 1970 is that your guns are seized?

    1. Stop thinking so much. You’re aggravating the well-intentioned denizens of Democratifornia.

    2. Why not? It’s not like it’s banned in some musty old document written over a hundred years ago. See sex offender lists and the Lattenberg Amendment for a howto guide.

    3. Well, two-fold answer. One, felons are no longer full citizens since English times. What exact rights can be constrained move a little. But depriving felons of their voting rights and ability to possess weapons would not have shocked the Founding Fathers. Two, technically, a felony sentence has tacked on “and you may not own firearms nor vote without having your rights restored by the governor” for state crimes. At least in FL. So it wasn’t an additional criminal penalty, it was part of the original.

      I take exception to any number of these, but you’re arguing the wrong points if you’re coming at it from a Constitutional or common law argument.

      1. Two, technically, a felony sentence has tacked on “and you may not own firearms nor vote without having your rights restored by the governor” for state crimes.

        That’s fine, if its part of the sentence at conviction.

        Its tacking on more and more penalties years after conviction that is obnoxious.

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

    So asserting your rights is a crime punishable by jail?

    1. OFFICER SAFETY!

    2. Or shot multiple times:

      I can assure you the officer is not all that concerned with trying not to offend you. He is instead concerned with protecting his mortal hide from having holes placed in it where God did not intend. And you, if in asserting your constitutional right to be free from unlawful search and seizure fail to do as the officer asks, run the risk of having such holes placed in your own.
      -Jack Dunphy

      National Review has scrubbed that article as far as I can tell.

      1. And you, if in asserting your constitutional right to be free from unlawful search and seizure fail to do as the officer asks, run the risk of having such holes placed in your own.

        Really, the bit about asserting your rights is irrelevant. The cops don’t care why you aren’t following orders, just that you aren’t.

        And because failing to follow orders, lawful or not, entitles the officer to feel threatened, he can shoot you down on the spot.

        The rules of engagement for cops are much more permissive than for soldiers engaged in war-fighting. We skipped right over posse comitatus and went full-on Stasi.

    3. In progtopia, anything can be a crime.

  8. So the police are using gun registration to seize firearms? I was assured by a number of commenters on this board that something like this would never happen.

    Am I just one of those paranoid libertarians I keep hearing about?

    1. Register and render unto Caesar Augustus.

      1. Nobody needs more than 7 inches of gladius.

        1. Except John Holmes

          1. Is there a Johnny Wadd Fat Heads?

            We have a great room with vaulted ceiling that might work.

  9. Show them a print out of the violent crime rate and ask, “Don’t you have something better to do?”

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