Weapons/Ammo Seized

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Weapons/Ammo Seized

Postby pammyomammy » Fri Aug 12, 2011 9:30 am

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:


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:


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?
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Re: Weapons/Ammo Seized

Postby macville » Tue Aug 16, 2011 1:53 pm

Sad when our law enforcement decides to make their own laws (or doesn't bother to read the law.) Really, your only option is to hire a lawyer and sue under at least the 4th amendment. Yeah, it sucks to have to hire a lawyer, but that's probably the only thing that will get them to release the stuff. Hopefully, you can sue for your lawyer's bill also, but I wouldn't hold your breath.
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Re: Weapons/Ammo Seized

Postby pammyomammy » Wed Aug 17, 2011 9:39 am

I guess what I am asking is whether anyone has a recommendation as to how best we pursue this on our own.

Should we compose a letter to the detective citing the laws and the opinion I mentioned above? If he doesn't respond (he doesn't return phone calls) then do we file a complaint with internal affairs? Do we quit trying to deal with the detective already and go to Internal Affairs? Do we contact the Attorney General's office? I'm just throwing those ideas out there as I don't know the proper chain of events.

I don't want to make things any worse, however, at this point it seems like we have hit the wall and need to do something to grease the wheels toward some progress. I am pretty tenacious and willing to work on this, but of course there is no "Getting Seized Property Returned for Dummies" at Barnes and Noble. LOL!

I mention involving Internal Affairs as I think the detective is exhibiting sloppy work. There have been other irregularities I didn't mention in my already too long post-most glaring among them-two guns that went missing in the property room for a couple weeks, a part of a gun missing when the gun was released, the detective saying that the spent brass was most likely thrown away as it was "trash" (I thought it was seized as evidence-i would think they should hang on to evidence). This brass proves that the missing part had to have been on the scene in order for that gun to have been fired...I could go on but I will spare you.

I know in my heart this is all very WRONG. To my way of thinking, someone (WHO?) should be willing to look at the situation and straighten it out without a court order...or am I naive?
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Re: Weapons/Ammo Seized

Postby johnharris » Wed Aug 17, 2011 4:47 pm

Try the letter first. Then go up the chain of command. Last resort would probably be filing a petition with the court to order the return of items not held as evidence or contraband.
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Re: Weapons/Ammo Seized

Postby pammyomammy » Wed Aug 17, 2011 7:18 pm

Thanks for the advice.

Based on your response, I'm assuming that I have a correct understanding of the law (that a 19 year old can legally possess a handgun). Is this right? I don't want to belabor the point, but I want to make sure.
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Re: Weapons/Ammo Seized

Postby tnxdshooter » Wed Sep 21, 2011 1:26 pm

pammyomammy wrote:I guess what I am asking is whether anyone has a recommendation as to how best we pursue this on our own.

That was just answered in the previous post. YOUR ONLY RECOURSE is to contact a lawyer. Sure you can write a letter, jump up and down, scream, holler, moan, complain but when dealing with cocky police like this none of that will work or get their attention. Your only recourse I can see is to stick it to em and stick it to em good. The only way to do that is lawyer up. You hire a lawyer, he sends em a mean letter. I guarantee you get all that stuff back within a week unless they are just plain stupid. Which from what you already said they do sound pretty stupid so it may take a lawsuit to get them to "wise up" and quit being stupid.
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