A woman from New York is suing the state because she never received legal counsel following the wrongful confiscation of her firearms in 2015.
Donna McKay checked herself into a hospital in April of last year when she suffered an anxiety attack after taking cold medicine. She was mistakenly placed on a list of people who had been involuntarily hospitalized, which, under New York’s SAFE Act, made her subject to firearm confiscation.
While the state eventually returned her property, she was forced to defend herself at the hearing and is still listed on the FBI’s list of people prohibited from purchasing firearms.
“No one facing federal and state disqualification from the ownership, use, and possession of firearms should represent themselves at a license hearing,” Paloma Capanna said in a prepared statement about the suit she has filed on behalf of Donna McKay.
According to the New York Law Journal, Yates County Court Judge W. Patrick Falvey said medical records clearly indicate that McKay voluntarily entered hospitalized care, circumstances that do not constitute “commitment.”
It’s unclear how McKay ended up on the wrong list, but Capanna hopes that future mistakes will be corrected more quickly. Her lawsuit requests an injunction that will require New York to provide legal representation in future gun confiscation cases as well as official notification to anyone who is up for a potential confiscation.
“I didn’t know anything about what was going on until I heard a knock at my door and multiple officers appeared to serve me with a court order for the confiscation of all of my firearms,” McKay said in a statement. “Without a lawyer, I would have permanently lost my Second Amendment rights to defend my children and myself and to hunt for the deer and turkey that we eat.”
Capanna calls the Second Amendment the “modern civil rights movement,” and encourages anyone who believes in the “right to a fair trial” to join her in lobbying at the New York Capitol on Jan. 9.
The right to an attorney is guaranteed in the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which mandates the “assistance of counsel” to all criminal defendants. While McKay was not being tried as a criminal, Capanna argues in the official complaint that a constitutional right should never be forfeited without the benefit of professional legal counsel.
“At risk in these hearings is the permanent loss of and federal disqualification from one’s fundamental rights under the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution,” Capanna notes. “There is no other fundamental civil right that can be or is being extinguished in a like matter.”
“The Second Amendment is the modern civil rights movement.”