The non-profit group Florida Carry, Inc. is suing the city of Daytona Beach, Fla., on behalf of a combat veteran who says police came into his home without a warrant and confiscated 16 firearms.
According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Police Chief Mike Chitwood claimed cops did not need a warrant to enter the home of U.S. Army veteran Anthony Bontempo, 26, and that his guns were taken for safe-keeping.
"He was not arrested, he was taken under the Baker Act," Chitwood said. "This was not a criminal case, so we did not need a warrant."
Commonly known as the “Baker Act,” the Florida Mental Health Act of 1971 allows judges, law enforcement, physicians or mental health professionals to involuntarily commit an individual if they have a mental illness and present a harm to themselves or others. Commitment to psychiatric care, called “examination,” can last up to 72 hours.
Bontempo served three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. The night his guns were confiscated he threatened to commit suicide. He was taken in under the involuntary treatment law and released from Halifax Health Medical Center the following day after a doctor decided he was not a threat to himself.
The suit, filed on Friday, claims Bontempo, named only as A.B., was not declared “mentally defective” as defined by Florida law and that he was not of “unsound mind” when police took the weapons.
He claims he asked Chitwood to return his weapons after he was released from psychiatric care. Chitwood told him he would have to supply him with mental health records.
He gave Chitwood a letter from his doctor, who diagnosed him with posttraumatic stress disorder, alcoholism, and systematic personality disorder.
"I said no way is he getting his guns back," Chitwood said. "I can't allow this guy to go ballistic on himself or other people. If that happens then everyone will ask why we gave him the guns back."
Bontempo claims he was told “the return of his property would require a court order.”
"I can understand seizing a gun if it's on the person, but going into the house and taking all the guns is against the law," said Sean Caranna, executive director of Florida Carry Inc. "Now they're asking him (Bontempo) for a court order and they're shifting the burden of proof on him to prove that he's not mentally ill."
The regulation of firearms as they relate to persons who have been involuntarily committed to outpatient treatment was scrutinized in the Florida House of Representatives in 2007, after the massacre at Virginia Tech when Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people and wounded 17 others. Cho was adjudicated as mentally unsound.