California resident Lynette Phillips checked in to a mental health hospital last year because she was reacting badly to an adjustment to her medication. She stayed at the hospital for 72 hours before leaving.
Three months later police were knocking on her door. When Phillip’s opened the door, nine police in bullet proof vests stormed in and told her they were taking all of her guns.
The state of California tracks gun purchases more tightly than almost any other state in the nation. And according to state law, anyone who spends 72 or more hours in a mental health institution becomes ineligible to own a firearm. The state’s thinking is that people who receive that many hours of medical attention for mental health issue are too unstable to own a firearm.
Only one of Phillip’s three guns was registered in her name. The other two were in her husband’s. After transferring the licenses for the guns to her husband, police returned the three guns to the Phillip’s home.
They are missing, however, an estimated $400-$600 worth of ammo that was confiscated along with her guns.
“The thing that they’re worried about is that the person loads up the gun in the lobby,” The family’s attorney Chuck Michel said in a phone interview. “I understand that.”
Although Michel understands why the bullets were not returned to Phillips at the same time as the guns, he does question the state’s policy banning anyone who spends three days in a mental health institution from owning a gun.
“This is the biggest problem with the mental health thing,” he said, “They keep everyone for up to 72 hours because they’re afraid of getting sued…How do you determine when someone is crazy or mentally unstable enough? It’s a hard societal issue to come to grips with.”
Since her firearms have not been officially reinstated, Phillips has decided not to pursue her ammunition out of fear of being prosecuted by the state. She does feel that she should be able to own a gun, though. She claims she admitted herself to the hospital in hopes of being happier by Christmas, not because she was overwhelmingly unstable.
“I do feel I have every right to purchase a gun,” Phillips said. “I’m not a threat. We’re law-abiding citizens.”