By: José Niño
A Florida man was recently subjected to the horrors of Florida’s draconian red flag gun confiscation law.
Reason Magazine’s Jacob Sullum recounted this incident, which involved the use of Florida’s red flag gun confiscation policy, which Republican Governor Rick Scott signed it into law following the outrage from the Parkland shooting in 2018.
Kevin Morgan was initially the victim of this unconstitutional gun grab. Morgan’s estranged wife, Joanie, believed he “was depressed, suicidal, and obsessed with the apocalypse.” She went on to say that he was stockpiling ammunition, food, gold, and guns in preparation for the end times. She even asserted that Morgan was talking about “seeing, hearing, and wrestling with demons.”
But it didn’t stop there. According to the estranged wife, Morgan had performed a ritual where he rubbed “oils” on their children and their house walls. Further, she alleged that her husband was abusing prescription drugs for chronic pain and openly talked about dismembering his previous wife and threatened to do the same if she ever got on his bad side.
Based on these claims, Joanie Morgan was able to obtain a temporary domestic violence projection injunction, an involuntary psychiatric evaluation under the Florida Mental Health Act (a.k.a. the Baker Act), and a temporary "risk protection order" under Florida’s current red flag law. The final protection order authorizes the removal of firearms from a person when he is considered a threat to himself or others. In Florida’s case, police and prosecutors are the only parties allowed to submit red flag petitions, but they are not always careful about investigating the allegations by people who may have a grudge. Disgruntled people – spouses, exes, roommates – can make flimsy accusations.
Rachel Montgomery, a detective with the Citrus County Sheriff's Office, was the law enforcement official who filed a red flag petition against Morgan. Circuit Judge Peter Brigham then issued the ex parte risk protection order on September 18, 2018, six months after Florida's red flag law went into effect. All three of these were ex parte orders. In other words, Morgan did not have a chance to defend himself against the allegations levied against him.
Montgomery said that she had responded to a complaint from Joanie Morgan claiming her partner had breached the temporary domestic violence protection injunction by going back to the house in Citrus Springs to pick up clothing, medications, "several firearms," and his Ford Mustang. Montgomery briefly summarized the assertions Joanie Morgan made in her various petitions against Kevin Morgan. She asserted that Morgan “has had a decline in mental stability over the last four months" and “displayed erratic [sic] behaviors to include making threats to dismember a former paramour and threats to kill his entire family while yielding [sic] a vial containing a paralytic agent." She continued by noting that "the respondent has purchased several firearms and ammunition during this time period."
These claims did not add up, however, after Montgomery continued to dig deeper into the case. She discovered there was no basis for the accusation that Kevin Morgan disobeyed the injunction by visiting the house.
"I determined that it wasn't him that had gone to the house," she said. "It was actually a pool maintenance worker that had been by the house." Regarding the domestic violence injunction, "…the firearms had been transferred prior to his risk protection order,” which meant that there were no guns for Morgan to get from the house.
Even with the Baker Act petition in, psychiatrist and mental health professionals determined that Kevin Morgan was in stable mental shape and did not require involuntary treatment after he was taken to a mental health facility back in September 2018. At a hearing to determine if Kevin Morgan’s protective orders should be extended, Joannie Morgan’s testimony was emotional, but lacking in evidence. This led to Montgomery admitting that he did not meet the law’s evidentiary standard for confiscating his firearms and committing him to an institution. The judge ended up concurring and threw out the orders.
After this entire ordeal, Morgan offered his thoughts. The sheriff's office "jumped into a civil action without completing a proper investigation," Morgan said. "I don't think the average person understands just how dangerous these laws are. Hopefully, if my story can get out, folks will see how easily (red flag laws) can be used against someone for revenge or to get an upper hand in (a custody dispute). I want people to know how these laws can be used improperly, in the hope that some reforms will take place. We need protection for falsely accused individuals and stiff punishment for those who abuse the system."
This case demonstrates why America is a nation of laws and has safeguards to protect the accused from false allegations. Without these measures in place, individuals could see their civil liberties eviscerated by people with an axe to grind or public officials with no desire to comply with laws. In a nation ruled by men, you can bet that gun rights will never be secure.
José Niño is a Venezuelan American freelance writer based in Austin, Texas. Sign up for his mailing list here. Contact him via Facebook, Twitter, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get his e-book, The 10 Myths of Gun Control, here.