A fifty-seven-year-old Washington State man is screaming foul after state and federal authorities barged into his home, detained him, and seized two legally owned rifles and a .25 caliber pistol under the auspices of controversial “Red Flag” laws, which allow police to confiscate firearms from law-abiding citizens who have, in many cases, committed no crimes. The confiscations are often based on flimsy evidence and spurious allegations.
James Randall, an Everett, WA resident with no criminal history, said he was awoken on Sunday, at 3 a.m., when Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) smashed down his front door with a battering ram. They held him at gunpoint while foraging his home for weapons.
Law enforcement served him with a standard United States District Court search warrant, in which a Snohomish County judge, the Dishonorable Michael P. Orenstein, authorized a search of his premises and the confiscation of any firearms found therein. The contents of the warrant stated that James was psychologically incompetent of owning a weapon, and that him doing so presented a “clear and present danger” to both himself and his community.
Mr. Randall’s woes first began in early July. He had participated in an “open carry” march, which is legal in Washington and does not require special permits, and was detained briefly by a state trooper that demanded he identify himself and surrender his weapon for inspection. Mr. Randall said he tried to deescalate the situation by fully complying with the trooper’s requests. The officer interrogated Randall and returned his weapon, but that was not his final encounter with law enforcement.
“A month later, to the day, I was sound asleep in the middle of the night when I heard a loud crash. My front door, heavy oak, came flying off its hinges and splintered everywhere. Three deputies in tactical gear and an ATF guy stormed into my bedroom, shouting at me about my guns. They dropped the warrant on me, grabbed my guns, and left,” Mr. Randall said.
Forty-eight hours later, he received in the mail a certified letter explaining why cops took his guns; between January and March of 2008, his physician had prescribed him Prozac, a common antidepressant, following the death of his wife of 20 years. Apparently, law enforcement had obtained his medical records and a list of every medication he had ingested in the last twenty years, and used that information as ammunition to secure a “Red Flag” warrant against him.
The controversial laws have gained political traction, as well as presidential support, in the wake of recent mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso. Opponents claim “Red Flag” laws, currently enforced in 17 states, have been written with the implicit intent of eroding the Second Amendment; to bring the United States to parity with other western nations that have enacted sweeping gun-grab programs.
At a White House briefing following the El Paso massacre, President Trump urged lawmakers in the remaining non-Red Flag states to immediately draft stricter gun legislation. Or let the federal government do it for them.
Mr. Randall said he believes authorities are using patients’ medical histories as an excuse to confiscate firearms and are specifically targeting outspoken proponents of Second Amendment rights.
“I’m not a criminal. I don’t have, have never had, any psychological impairments. I’ve been a responsible firearms owner since I was old enough to pull a trigger. I hear one-in-six Americans have taken antidepressants, for whatever reason. That’s sixty-one million people. And I bet a lot of those have guns. What happened to me can happen to every one of them,” Mr. Randall warned.
He said he intends to sue the Snohomish County Sherriff’s Department and Judge Orenstein for violating his Second and Fourth Amendment rights. He is also considering litigation against his physician, whom he says breached doctor-patient confidentiality and guidelines established in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA).