Breaking: Gun groups sue police over mental health gun confiscation

Two state and national gun rights organizations sued Santa Clara County police and city officials on Thursday over the seizure of firearms after it was learned a gun owner underwent psychiatric treatment.

The Second Amendment Foundation and Calguns Foundation said the San Jose Police Department violated California’s Welfare and Institutions code when it confiscated a dozen firearms from Lori Rodriguez after her husband, Edward, underwent a 72-hour psychiatric evaluation at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center on Jan. 24, 2013, according to court documents obtained by Guns.com.

“The City of San Jose or any other jurisdiction simply cannot be allowed to seize someone’s legally-owned property because of the actions of a spouse or some other third party,” SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb said in a statement. “We have looked at the state code and have serious concerns about the policies and procedures in San Jose. Lori Rodriguez should get her firearms returned.”

The guns, which weren’t involved in the incident Edward Rodriguez was transferred to the hospital for, were locked in a state-approved gun safe at the time of confiscation, which would make removing those firearms during a mental health and welfare check a violation of the state code regulating those procedures, the complaint alleges.

“The city attorney acknowledged that Lori could go out and buy more firearms because she is not prohibited from doing so,” Gottlieb said. “We think she should get her own firearms returned, and that this continued deprivation of her property needs to stop immediately.”

Lori Rodriguez owned one of the guns prior to her marriage to Edward Rodriguez and had since obtained several of the firearms as communal property.

The suit names San Jose police officer Steven Valentine as a defendant for his involvement in either personally seizing or directing the seizure of the firearms.

When Valentine and other officers arrived at the Rodriguez residence, Edward exhibited signs of erratic behavior, which prompted the officers to take him to the medical center for an evaluation and remove the firearms from the couple’s Lincoln Model LX25 they have owned since August 2002.

“If you live with someone who is disqualified … that shouldn’t keep you from exercising your right to keep and bear arms,” attorney Donald Kilmer told Guns.com.

Kilmer said that mental health and gun ownership is going to be a growing area of law. Gun rights advocates don’t want the mentally ill to own guns, Kilmer said, but it will be used as an excuse to undeservedly strip law-abiding citizens of their Second Amendment rights.