In May, my 19 year-old son had several guns, ammo and other accessories seized by the Shelby County Sheriff’s department. He, along with two other adult men, were target shooting under a bridge at the river in an area commonly used for that purpose. Clearly it is not legal to target-shoot under a bridge but it is a common activity in our rural setting and is tolerated to the extent that those caught doing it are (even according to the sheriff’s deputy that made the scene) generally just asked to leave by law enforcement. I will begin by saying I realize shooting under the bridge is wrong and by doing so he opened the door for what happened.
My son was not ever charged with anything, he was not arrested, nothing. After the investigation that afternoon, he was released. Because my son had just returned from college, he had about seven guns, ammo, magazines, etc. in his truck at the time. The number and nature of the guns (all legal) raised a red flag with the SCSD and as the result, every gun and every piece of gun related equipment were seized, including spent brass casings. (The other men had their weapons seized as well.)
While most of the guns have been returned or in the process of being released, the SCSD refuses to release the ammo, accessories or the casings, many of which were proprietary casings that my son reloads. What is worse, they refuse to release a handgun. It is their contention that because he is under 21 he cannot own a handgun.
The detective that won’t release the weapon cited this link as his reasoning:http://www.nraila.org/gunlaws/federal/read.aspx?id=60
The blue box clearly states that, “This summary is not intended as legal advice or restatement of law.” It is beyond me why a detective would use a link on the internet to make a judgment like this but I digress.
We are certainly not lawyers, I’m a high school educated stay-at-home mom
but we have always made our best effort to stay within the law in all matters. It was my understanding that my under 21 son could posses a handgun.
The Tennessee code we referred to was:
• 39-17-1319-that I believe does NOT prohibit an under 21 individual from possessing a handgun
The US code we referred to was:
• Title 18 part 1 chapter 44 922 Unlawful acts- (b)(1) that I believe specifies that a dealer cannot sell a handgun to an individual under 21 AND (x)(1)(A)(5) which I understand explains that it is unlawful “for a person” to sell a handgun to a juvenile which it defines as someone less than 18
Unless I am mistaken, we believe by law he could in fact POSSESS that handgun, it seems to me that the law prohibits him from BUYING it from a dealer.
While it seems to be the general consensus of most people, including the SCSD that one must be 21 to own a handgun, it is my understanding that one must be 21 to PURCHASE a handgun from a dealer, but I can’t find anywhere that the law says it is illegal for someone over 18 to possess a handgun.
Am I wrong?
Finally, the detective also refuses to sign off on the release any of the other property seized-magazines, ammo, ammo boxes, cleaning kit, etc. He said the SCSD never releases seized ammo. Since my son was not arrested, not charged with anything, voluntarily surrendered his property and (unfortunately) was not even issued a receipt for the seized property. The officers on the scene told him they weren’t charging him but he needed to immediately get in his truck and “go home”. We can’t understand why all his property isn’t returned to him. They have run a background check on him, I assume they have run the weapons, they simply don’t want to return the rest of the property.
I found this link on this forum:http://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/op/2001/op/op155.pdf
While this opinion doesn’t evaluate my son’s exact situation, it seems almost easier to see that my son’s property (ammo, ammo cases, magazines, etc.) should be returned as he was not even charged with a crime!
This has gone on for three months. Until now, my son has tried to take care of this on his own. He obviously got himself into the situation using bad judgment shooting under a bridge however, he seems to be getting the runaround from SCSD and I have reached the point of stepping in to help him resolve this.
What bothers me the most is that we raised our kids to respect the law and law enforcement. I don’t fault the officers for erring on the side of caution in this matter, however, I am very disappointed at how they have handled the situation in the time since. I know my son will not be so trusting of law enforcement to do the right thing in the future. For what it is worth, my boy has been hunting for years, was on the trap shooting squads that won the JV national championship in 2007 and placed 2nd in the nation in the varsity division in 2009. He has taken handgun safety, riflery, and shooting sports classes in college. He works 50 hours a week every summer to pay his portion of his college expenses. He is not a thug.
While the value of the property is significant, at least to him, it doesn’t rise to the level of hiring a lawyer to get it back. On the other hand, this whole situation stinks and seems wholly unfair. If he committed a crime, charge him, if he did not, and if all his property (handgun, ammo, magazines, ammo boxes, casings, cleaning kit, etc.) is legal, then return it. Is he within his rights to demand this? What steps do you suggest he take from here?