Society

California Department Of Justice Mistakes Man For Felon, Confiscates Guns

| by Will Hagle

A California man who was arrested for marijuana possession in 1970 recently had state Department of Justice officials show up at his door to confiscate his guns. 

Michael Merritt, a 61-year-old gun owner and hunter, claimed that he was completely surprised by the arrival of the state agents at his door.

“I didn’t know why they were here. Then it hit me in a flash. They were here to take my guns, and I didn’t know why,” Merritt said to Fox News. 

The Department of Justice’s reasoning behind the confiscation was the result of the Armed and Prohibited Persons System, a database established in 2001 that checks lists of registered gun owners against those that are legally prohibited from owning weapons. 

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Department officials noticed Merritt was listed in records as both a felon and a gun owner, even though his felony charge was linked to a pot possession charge from over 30 years ago, when the laws regarding the drug were vastly different in California. 

Merritt protested the confiscation, claiming that he doesn’t remember his pot charge being a felony.

“I don't even remember pleading guilty,” Merritt said. "I probably did. I was young. I was probably scared to go to jail. The charge doesn’t exist anymore. It’s a ticket. The weird part is that all my weapons were legally purchased with a DOJ background check. I never had a problem."

Still, Merritt turned over his guns to the agents that arrived at his door. According to Bakersfield Now, a total of eighteen weapons were taken from Merritt’s home. Two weeks later, after department officials determined that Merritt's felony charge had been downgraded to a misdemeanor, his guns were returned. 

Although Merritt has not officially indicated that he plans on suing, he did voice his concern that the agents violated his constitutional rights. 

“They violated my Fourth Amendment rights. The whole thing was upsetting. I was told that I was unable to protect my family. To go hunting, which is something I cherish,” Merritt said. 

Perhaps more confusing is the Department of Justice’s sudden realization that Merritt might be considered a felon after so many years.

“I don’t even think I would have been able to vote with the felon charge,” Merritt said, emphasizing the ridiculousness of the situation.