New York woman sues for right to an attorney at gun license hearings

A gun owner who had her firearms confiscated is suing New York in federal court to have the right to legal representation during a proceeding to revoke a gun license.

Donna McKay filed suit in U.S. District Court against the state on Wednesday over the process that led to her guns being impounded by the local sheriff on the direction of the State Police after she spent the night in an area hospital following a reaction to cough medicine she had been prescribed.

McKay’s attorney, gun rights lawyer Paloma A. Capanna, who has a history of taking on similar cases, argues she was deprived her due process by authorities and only advised of the allegations against her — which could lead to the permanent loss of her Second Amendment rights — when police showed up to get her guns.

According to court documents, McKay had voluntarily visited Soldiers and Sailors Hospital in April 2015 and was allowed to leave after she spent less than 12 hours there. A week later, Yates County Sheriff’s deputies visited her home with a court order to collect her firearms and gun permit as she had been labeled by the State Police as having been involuntarily committed to a mental institution.

State officials also reported her to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System in an effort to block future gun purchases.

While McKay was able to get her firearms back following a license hearing in a county court earlier this year, she is still on file with the federal government with a false mental health report, which the lawsuit seeks to have corrected.

The suit requests that notification is provided to all those reported to NICS and states be required to provide free and assigned legal counsel to those defending against such adjudications.

“No one facing federal and state disqualification from the ownership, use, and possession of firearms should represent themselves at a license hearing,” said Capanna in a release through her office. “The laws are too complex and the confiscation agenda of the Cuomo Administration is too powerful.”

Within the past decade, New York has stepped up reports to the NICS system of those with mental illness, going from one of the lowest reporting rates in the country, with just four individuals on file in 2007, to one of the highest with 382,870 reported by the state as of the end of 2015. Currently, the database contains 4.6 million individuals reported with mental health issues as of Nov. 30.