By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters
Do not fool yourself about what the aftermath of a defensive shooting is going to be like. Some people have an image in their head that’s been put there by watching too much television and bad platitudes from elected officials and spokespersons for various groups. As with anything else, the reality is so much worse than the fantasy.
For instance, most people don’t think it’s entirely possible that their defensive handgun will not only be confiscated by law enforcement, but never returned. It’s actually fairly common. Bear in mind that this isn’t legal advice and shouldn’t be taken as such, but rather a discussion of available information.
Granted, the investigation of any defensive shooting is unique, as every instance of an act occurring is totally unique in and of itself as there is always an economy of scale. It shouldn’t be presumed that what transpires for person X in one place will also happen to person Y in another. It is good, though, to be prepared for the worst despite hoping for the best.
After authorities have been called and first responders arrive on the scene, law enforcement will likely process the crime scene and begin asking questions. You may or may not be placed in custody. What is also quite likely is for the gun that you used to dispatch the home invader/robber/whomever will be seized and taken into evidence. There it will remain for the duration of any proceedings, including a trial – which can take months, or even years.
Note, though, that this isn’t to suggest that police want to deprive people of their property. There is often much more to these things than news reports disclose.
However, it isn’t unheard of for police to hang on to firearms in evidence in case of appeals or retrials, and not even for a retrial or appeal by the gun’s owner. Stolen firearms, for instance, can remain in police custody in case of retrial or appeal of the person who stole it. In other words, it’s not unheard of for months or even years to pass before a person can get their firearms returned to them. In some cases, the sentence of the person in question is so long that there’s no way the gun will be returned under those auspices.
It also isn’t guaranteed that the gun will be returned in good condition. For instance, it’s SOP in many jurisdictions for a police officer to engrave his initials into a gun when it’s entered into evidence, regardless of what kind of case it is. Granted, many departments also mandate that the engraving be done on the frame but underneath the grips, so permanent cosmetic damage isn’t done. That doesn’t guarantee a firearm will be returned in the same condition it was in when taken into evidence.
Ammunition that’s seized along with the firearm may also be destroyed after a certain amount of time in storage. The going assumption is older ammunition can become unstable and/or dangerous, despite properly-stored ammunition having a shelf life of decades.
Of course, that is presuming a good-faith effort is made to return a firearm at all. Many people have to sue to get their property returned to them. Some police departments are known for basically not releasing guns back to their owners without a court order.
Take, for instance, the case of Nazir Al-Mujaahid. Mujaahid was reported by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in April 2012, to be filing his fourth lawsuit against the Milwaukee Police Department to get his guns returned. Mujaahid was the first Wisconsinite with a concealed carry permit to use his concealed pistol against criminals, as he shot a man who was trying to rob a grocery store in Milwaukee.
The Torrance Police Department in Torrance, Calif., according to the Daily Breeze (a daily newspaper in Torrance, Calif.) had to be taken to federal court in 2015 after ignoring two court orders to return firearms voluntarily surrendered by one Michael Roberts in 2010. Roberts had an ample firearms collection, some of which were destroyed under a law allowing destruction of abandoned firearms after 6 months in evidence, despite Roberts having communicated all along that he wanted his property returned.
Roberts filed his first lawsuit in 2012, and the end result was a bill of more than $30,000 the taxpayers of Torrance had to pay, including more than $15,000 restitution for the improperly destroyed firearms.
A 2014 case in Sanford, Fla., resulted in a legally blind man having to sue to get his firearms returned to him after being acquitted for a 2012 defensive shooting, according to Sanford NBC affiliate WESH.
Granted, there are also plenty of stories out there of people whose firearms were returned to them.
So…will you get your gun back if it’s taken into evidence after a shooting? You might. You also might not. You might also get it back far worse for wear.
Sam Hoober is Contributing Editor for AlienGearHolsters.com, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit aliengearholsters.com.