Tomorrow, I have a court date. I am not in trouble, but I am bringing a petition to have relief from a firearms prohibition.
Why do I have this prohibition? because I sought treatment for an illness. The events that lead me to seek treatment at Doctor’s Behavioral Health Center in Modesto, CA resulted in putting me under a 5150 hold — in short someone determined that I was a danger to myself or others.
Under the Welfare and Institutions Code section 8103, after being placed in such a hold, I cannot so much as hold a firearm for five years. However I do have the right under the same Code to petition to have relief from this prohibition. While I can understand some cases where such a prohibition may be desired, it rankles when it is applied to me. While I do not own any firearms, it is not within the realm of possibility that I may want to use one before the year 2020. I passed the Wyoming Hunter’s Safety Course, being the only person in the class who scored 100% on the written test. I think Elk is one of the most delicious animals, and I cannot purchase elk steak at the S-Mart. Deer Jerky is also very yummy.
When I was being discharged from DBHC, it was a flurry of forms, and a peevish nurse that was upset that I was taking the time to read what was put in front of me before signing — and refusing to sign if there was false statement on the form. One of these forms was informing me of the prohibition I was now under, and having to surrender immediately any firearms I owned and had two boxes to check to either request a hearing for relief, or to waive my right to a hearing.
The box to waive my right to a hearing was helpfully pre-checked for me.
I modified the form, but fearing that my modifications would be unclear — I copied the near-illegible url at the top of the form — it turns out incorrectly, but google is pretty smart and I found the form to petition to print out at home and mail to the Superior Court. A copy of the original form somehow did not make it into the pile of papers and forms I was given at the end of my discharge. So I printed out a new form, and wrote the following cover letter:
To whom it may concern:
Please find enclosed a request for hearing for relief from firearms prohibition. I was presented a form to sign during my August 28, 2014 discharge from Doctor’s Behavioral Health Center, 1501 Claus Road, Modesto, CA, that was filled out when presented stating I did not wish a hearing. I modified the form to request a hearing.
In my copies of discharge documents, a copy of this form was absent. Therefore, I am sending this form in the belief that the form I was presented during my discharge may be difficult to interpret, or not submitted at all. I apologize if this results in any duplicate paperwork or scheduling for the same case.
L. Christopher Bird
That was sent September 1, 2014, and tomorrow, October 10th, I have my day in court. But I would be lying if I said that it grates at me, that what is considered an fundamental right in the United States is contingent upon the health care options available to me for the treatment of mental illness.
My treatment at DBHC from the outset was more appropriate to a prisoner than a patient, and this is just a continuation of that. Understand, I committed no crime , but because I was exhibiting the symptoms of an illness, I was subjected to a pat-down, the confiscation of my property, and the removal of constitutionally guaranteed rights.
The good news, is that I think the law is on my side. To wit:
(6) The people shall bear the burden of showing by a preponderance of the evidence that the person would not be likely to use firearms in a safe and lawful manner. (7) If the court finds at the hearing set forth in paragraph (5) that the people have not met their burden as set forth in paragraph (6), the court shall order that the person shall not be subject to the five-year prohibition in this section on the ownership, control, receipt, possession, or purchase of firearms, and that person shall comply with the procedure described in Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 33850) of Division 11 of Title 4 of Part 6 of the Penal Code for the return of any firearms. A copy of the order shall be submitted to the Department of Justice. Upon receipt of the order, the Department of Justice shall delete any reference to the prohibition against firearms from the person's state mental health firearms prohibition system information. (8) Where the district attorney declines or fails to go forward in the hearing, the court shall order that the person shall not be subject to the five-year prohibition required by this subdivision on the ownership, control, receipt, possession, or purchase of firearms. A copy of the order shall be submitted to the Department of Justice. Upon receipt of the order, the Department of Justice shall, within 15 days, delete any reference to the prohibition against firearms from the person's state mental health firearms prohibition system information, and that person shall comply with the procedure described in Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 33850) of Division 11 of Title 4 of Part 6 of the Penal Code for the return of any firearms.
TL;DR: The State has to make the case for the prohibition, and if the D.A. does not show up, I win by default.
Even so, I am nervous as all get out.