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In re A.M.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 10, 2018

IN THE MATTER OF A.M., A.M., Petitioner/Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Bremer County, Christopher C. Foy, Judge.

         A person previously involuntarily hospitalized for mental-health treatment seeks restoration of his firearm privileges.

          Kevin D. Engels of Correll, Sheerer, Benson, Engels, Galles & Demro, P.L.C., Cedar Falls, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Mary A. Triick, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Heard by Vogel, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.

          TABOR, JUDGE.

         A.M. appeals the district court's refusal to restore his firearm rights under Iowa Code section 724.31 (2016). After reviewing the available record, we reach the same conclusion as the district court-A.M. did not present sufficient evidence to show he would not be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety. Accordingly, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Prior Proceedings

         In 2010, then twenty-year-old A.M. was abusing alcohol; by his own account, he drank almost every day. He also suffered from depression starting in high school. And although A.M. was prescribed medication, he refused to take it.

         After a night of heavy drinking[1] in March 2010, A.M. contacted Shane Hoff, who was a Bremer County Sheriff's Deputy and a family friend. A.M. was driving his brother's truck and asked Hoff to follow him home; Hoff, who was on patrol duty, refused two separate requests and told A.M. not to drive if he was drunk. But A.M. drove anyway and sideswiped a bridge with his brother's truck. A.M. again contacted Deputy Hoff and asked him to survey the damage to the truck. Hoff stopped by the home of A.M.'s mother to inspect the truck and talk to A.M.

         After Deputy Hoff left, A.M. grew more distraught and decided to commit suicide with his mother's shotgun. Once A.M.'s mother awoke and realized her son's plans, they ended up struggling over the gun. A.M.'s thirteen-year-old sister helped by distracting A.M. so their mother could hide the gun. A.M. became enraged and assaulted his mother and sister, as well as a neighbor to whose house they ran for help. After responding to a 911 call, Deputy Hoff arrested A.M., who was charged with burglary and assault.[2] All three of A.M's assault victims required medical attention for their injuries.

         As a result of the violent incident, A.M.'s mother initiated civil commitment proceedings, writing in the application under Iowa Code section 229.6 that this was "not the first time that [A.M.] has gotten this way with me or family members." Once at the hospital, A.M. didn't want to disclose why he was there and wouldn't take responsibility for his actions. Psychological testing confirmed A.M.'s problems with anger management and substance abuse. Specifically, the psychologist's March 7, 2010 report opined that A.M. was "at risk of ongoing problems with poor control over his aggressive impulses." A medical doctor reported A.M. "minimized any depressive symptoms" and assessed him as having "probable alcohol dependence versus abuse."

         The hospital discharged A.M. to outpatient mental-health and substance-abuse treatment. He continued treatment for "a couple of months" after his discharge. He also completed substance abuse counseling as a requirement of his probation. A.M. took the medication prescribed to him for a few months after his discharge. When he believed he was better, he stopped taking the medication without consulting a doctor. A.M. also abstained from alcohol for a couple of years after his discharge fearing he wouldn't be able to handle himself if he resumed drinking. But he eventually returned to occasionally consuming alcohol.

         A.M. started a romantic relationship shortly after he was released from the hospital, and he married in 2013. The couple had a son in the spring of 2015. A.M. also opened his own full-time painting business.

         As a result of his involuntary hospitalization, A.M. lost his firearm privileges in accordance with 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(4) and (g)(4).[3] Wishing to someday teach his son to hunt, A.M. filed a petition to restore his privileges under Iowa Code section 724.31. As required by statute, the district court ordered a hearing on the matter in November 2016. See Iowa Code § 724.31(3) (requiring court to consider evidence in a closed proceeding). The provision also mandated the court receive evidence, offered by petitioner A.M., concerning all of the following:

a. The circumstances surrounding the original issuance of the order or judgment that resulted in the firearm disabilities imposed by 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(4) and (g)(4).
b. The petitioner's record, which shall include, at a minimum, the petitioner's mental health records and ...

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