TAMPA - John Judd Thomas, 77, had his guns taken away by Tampa Police in March of 2012 after firing off six shots within the city limits.
"I was trying to kill a rat," explains Thomas.
Thomas was taken to a mental health facility in Tampa for evaluation under the Baker Act, but quickly released, never forced by a judge to stay in custody.
That's why he was given the right to retrieve his guns in a ten-minute court hearing in which he's asked to provide a copy of the police report and answer a half-dozen questions, including whether he's under a domestic violence injunction and how he came to own the guns in the first place.
Another man at the courthouse to retrieve his weapons Wednesday did not want to be identified. He explained that a friend had phoned police telling them he thought his friend was dangerously depressed, so they came to his house and took him into custody for mental evaluation.
"As soon as they dropped me off at the hospital, I was almost immediately released."
But he doesn't understand why they took his weapons that he said were safely locked up in his home.
"Unfair. Not to mention the fact that it's been six months that they've kept them."
But he'll get his guns back too.
If either man had been adjudicated as incompetent or involuntarily committed, they would likely be unable to retrieve their weapons. They would also fail a background check if they tried to buy another weapon. But simply being taken in for evaluation is not enough to flag the required background check.
As for John Thomas, he was told to take his paperwork to Tampa Police headquarters to pick up his weapons. Once there, he's told he needs to make an appointment with the detective in charge of returning seized weapons - another hoop to jump through.
Still, Thomas has no problem with restrictions on gun ownership. He said, "About 80 percent out there don't have no business having a gun in their hand at all."
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