A 54-year-old man from San Mateo (name withheld to protect the accused’s privacy) was arrested recently on charges of possessing an illegal firearm, an automatic assault rifle. What is most interesting about this case, however, is how the man was brought to the attention of the authorities. He walked into a shopping center in San Mateo and asked for a custom-embroidered hat with the slogan “We Love ISIS” on it. The clerk thought that, between this request and the overly-personal and agitated conversation that occurred between themselves and the man, this was cause for alerting the authorities. As it turns out, the man is not only a veteran, but also suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and on a number of psychotropic medications. He was placed on a 72-hour involuntary psychiatric hold and his home was searched. The investigation turned up several illegal weapons, including a sawed-off shotgun and a great deal of ammunition.
California law makes it a crime to possess certain weapons with or without a proper license. These weapons are considered far too dangerous for average members of the public to own and use for the purposes of protection. CA Penal Code 16590 (the ban on ‘generally prohibited weapons’) states that even such things as nunchucks are deemed illegal. Cases like these are considered ‘wobblers’ in California, meaning that it is up to prosecutors whether they will consider the offense a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the particular case, and on any criminal history that they might unearth. A misdemeanor conviction for violation of the above law could end in up to 1 year in county jail and a $1,000 fine, while a felony conviction may result in up to 3 years in county jail and a $10,000 fine.