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August 18, 2017

Elaine C. Vechorik
89 Earles Fork Rd.
Sturgis, MS 39769
(662) 465-7533
MsforLiberty@gmail.com

Semoune Ellis, Esquire


Department of Public Safety
Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics
Post Office Box 720519
Byram, Mississippi 39272-0519

Mr. Ellis:

Mississippi for Liberty is a non-profit organization that, among other


things, follows laws and procedures having to do with gun violations.
We back gun legislation that we feel is in the best interest of law
abiding gun owners. We also monitor and have an interest in any guns
seized by law enforcement agencies. We inspect Dockets of Deadly
Weapons Seized and take note of any court orders forfeiting weapons
based on convictions of gun charges. Our greatest concern is that the
guns were seized lawfully, retained lawfully and returned promptly if no
charges were made. We sometimes contribute to civil suits to assist
victims whose rights may have been violated.

We closely monitored the Legislative hearings conducted on seized


assets last year and look forward to seeing your new website
regarding seizures based on the asset forfeiture laws and narcotics
laws. Rick Ward, a retired law enforcement officer and current gun
rights advocate, whom we have worked with before, made a
presentation before the committee regarding up to 800 guns seized
and sold unlawfully by one agency after 21 years of retention. A civil
suit is currently pending. Then Acting Director Sam Owens was
present when Mr. Ward pointed out to the committee that guns were
seized by some agencies without charges ever having been made for
violating gun laws. He said the guns were often held for many years
and the agencies at some point made an effort to locate the owners by
the minimum standards required by law using public notice postings
and letters to the last known address.

One problem with holding guns for a long period of time without
charges is that it is against the gun laws and does not comply with the
Terry v Ohio Supreme Court case and other US Supreme Court
decisions. The next problem is that we are a very mobile society and
few people live at the same address or in the same county where
posts are made. Therefore, citizens whose guns are seized without
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charges and held for a lengthy period of time have most likely moved
several years later and will not see the county posts or receive mail
since most post office change of address orders do not exceed one
year. The individual then loses his weapon without due process and is
never aware it was up for sale.

Having reviewed your current website a few days ago, I located a


letter recently sent to Mr. Percy Harris regarding a gun seized during a
Terry Stop. Apparently the gun was never returned and the person
was never charged with a gun violation or you wouldnt be returning it
to him. However, we are doubtful that he will receive the notice even
though you have complied with the minimum procedures for
notification within the law. We are also aware that you have other
means within your agency to locate people if you were to exercise due
diligence. I have little doubt your agents initially ran the serial number
of the weapon and the individual through his drivers license number
and/or social security number to see if either were wanted.

Although it may not be the normal use of the NCIC system or other
intelligence or investigative systems to locate the new residence of an
individual, given the fact that it appears the gun was held improperly
until the person likely no longer lives at that address it necessitates
going outside the norm. We think it is acceptable to use the more
modern systems to locate an individual since the laws defining
location techniques have not been updated in many years and the
procedures used are antiquated. If due diligence had been used, many
citizens may well have been located and individual and their rights
may have been restored. We may sponsor legislation next session to
bring the public notification procedures into the 21st century.

Attached is a copy of an Attorney General opinion to David Ringer


(Flowood City Attorney) a few years ago describing the procedures
that should be followed by law enforcement officers during Terry Stops
regarding temporary retention of firearms. Please note the AG did not
answer his questions directly due to not knowing the particular
circumstances at the scene which could greatly differ. However, he did
provide Appendix A that addresses both state law and U.S. Supreme
Court case laws. Please note the last line under Terry Stops that
indicates, when the stop is over the gun must be returned immediately.
Obviously that didnt happen.

Our organization has three requests for you. The first is to use
whatever investigative and/or intelligence means you have to locate
Mr. Harris and return his firearm. The second is that you conduct
training for your agents and use this opinion and Appendix A to make
sure they know the law regarding gun seizures made under the
authority of the Terry v Ohio case.
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Those seizures are made not necessarily under asset forfeiture laws
or drug laws. (We are not talking about seizures made based on a
search incidental to arrest.) The final request is to notify us regarding
your receipt of this notice and what your intentions are in this case
and future firearms seizures.

We look forward to working with you and plan to monitor your new
website on a regular basis regarding seizures and forfeitures. I would
like to thank you in advance for your assistance.

Regards,

Elaine Vechorik
Vice President

Enclosure: Attorney General Opinion

cc: The Honorable Andy Gipson, State Representative


Jim Cunningham, President