Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs), commonly referred to as "red flag laws," have been at the forefront of the gun control debate. The idea is simple: if a person is deemed mentally unstable, and a risk to themselves or others, he or she can be stripped of their firearms. Typically, family members, doctors and law enforcement have the power to petition a judge to deem the gun owner mentally unfit to own a firearm, at least for the time being. Some states, like Florida, have already implemented these laws. While they sound great on paper, they have a number of practicality issues. The biggest one is the lack of due process.
Just last week, a man in Florida had his firearms confiscated simply because he had the same name as a criminal. That's right. A man was stripped of his Second Amendment right...because the police failed to differentiate a law-abiding citizen with a thug.
According to Ammoland, Jonathan Carpenter received a certified letter from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services saying his concealed handgun permit had been suspended for "acts of domestic violence or acts of repeat violations."
Carpenter was forced to go to the Osceola County clerk's office to have a form filled out stating he wasn't the person law enforcement was looking for. At that point, the clerk instructed Carpenter to speak with the sheriff's office.
The Sheriff’s office supplied Carpenter with a copy of the injunction. In the statement, the plaintiff stated that she rented a room out to a “Jonathan Edward Carpenter” and his girlfriend. She alleged that this Carpenter was a drug dealer who broke her furniture and sold her belongings without her permission. He had a gun, and she feared for her life. She was not sure if the firearm was legal or not.
Carpenter had never met the woman in question and never lived at the address listed in the restraining order. Moreover, other than being white, he looked nothing like the man the terrorized the woman.
The man in question is 5'8. Carpenter is 5'11. The alleged drug dealer is 110lbs. Carpenter is over 200. The man has black hair. Carpenter is completely bald. Last but not least, the man in question is covered in tattoos, and Carpenter only has a few.
Even though it was evident they had the wrong man, Carpenter was forced to hand over his firearms. There was no hearing or any kind of court proceeding.
“The last thing on my mind was me having to turn over my gun,” Carpenter told AmmoLand. “I was upset when the Sheriff told me that I need to surrender my gun before any due process.”
Here's where things get even more ridiculous.
Carpenter's firearms had to remain in police custody until the plaintiff can say, in court, that he's not the man that she filed a complaint against. He'd then have to petition the court to get his firearms back...and he would have to bear the cost. Carpenter will get his day in court later this month.
What's happening to this man is the exact instance Second Amendment supporters have worried about. This very instant is what we've talked about, time and time again. What if Carpenter needed to defend himself between now and his court date? He couldn't, because the government failed him. He's having to prove himself innocent in a country where everyone is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.