Back in February, Oneida County sheriff’s deputies arrived at the home of Don Hall, a 70-year-old Vietnam veteran and retired pipefitter who lives in Taberg, NY. It was around 9:30 p.m.
Hall was surprised. Why were they police at his house with their lights flashing? Did something happen to one of his children? One of his grandchildren?
Turns out, the officers were there to confiscate Hall’s firearms. And they did, all six of them. Two handguns and four long guns.
To justify the seizure of Hall’s lawfully owned property, the officers pointed to a document that said Hall was “mentally defective.” Under federal law, anyone adjudicated mentally defective or involuntarily committed is considered a “prohibited person” and may not possess a firearm.
The only problem is that Hall isn’t mentally defective. He is perfectly healthy. The police had the wrong guy. But, in that moment, with the sheriffs in his home, there was nothing he could do but to turn over his firearms.
“I was guilty until I could prove myself innocent,” Hall told The Post Standard, which investigated the ordeal. “They don’t tell you why or what you supposedly did. It was just a bad screw-up.”
Hall would eventually get his firearms back in April. But it would take time, a lot of work (Hall obtained depositions from all the local hospitals saying that he had not been treated for mental health issues) and the help of an attorney to get the job done.
However, the question of how exactly Hall become a target for confiscation remains unclear.
“To this day, no one at a hospital or the state and local agencies involved in taking Hall’s guns has admitted to Hall that a mistake was made, explained what happened or apologized,” notes the Post Standard.
The only person that did admit that a mistake was made was the county judge who helped Hall get his guns back.
John Panzone, Hall’s attorney, believes that another man named “Don Hall” was recently flagged at a local hospital while being treated for mental health issues. Presumably. there was a mix up between the two men and their personal information, including their social security numbers, and it set this whole debacle in motion.
“I’m surprised it sailed through the way it did with a man who has a spotless record,” said Panzone. “To me, presumption of innocence is the foundation of our system, and this provision doesn’t allow for that.”