Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Legal Struggle Continues to Release Gabriel Metcalf in Montana's Gun-Free School Zone Controversy


Gabriel Metcalf was taken into custody in Billings, Montana, for allegedly breaking the rules set by the Gun Free School Zone Act on August 22, 2023. During a preliminary hearing three days later, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas K. Godfrey recommended that Metcalf be held in pre-trial detention. Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Cavan concurred, issuing an Order of Detention based on two main claims. One was that Metcalf posed a risk to community safety that couldn't be mitigated by any conditions of release. The other pointed to Metcalf's past involvement with violence or weaponry. 

These claims have been criticized for their lack of solid evidence. According to Judge Cavan, Metcalf had kept a firearm on public property within a school zone and claimed he needed it for protection against a previous neighbor. Though Metcalf has no criminal record or known history of violence, he remains confined at Yellowstone County Detention Facility in Billings, Montana.

Metcalf's federally-appointed defense lawyer, Russel Hart, has submitted a request for a new Detention Hearing, intending to present new confidential evidence, likely psychological evaluations, to challenge the detention order. 

Those who have been closely tracking the case assert that Metcalf's belief that he needs a firearm for personal safety is backed by existing police complaints against David Lee Carpenter, who currently faces another trial and is under an active restraining order. Moreover, they argue that Montana laws and relevant case studies around the Gun Free School Zone Act provide enough reason to believe the Act may be unconstitutional, supporting Metcalf's claim for an exception.

As for the next steps in legal procedure, the options are to secure the detention hearing from Judge Cavan, appeal the detention order at the District Court level if denied, and lastly, approach the Circuit Court of Appeals (Ninth Circuit). 

Remaining in pre-trial detention complicates the defense process, and critics argue that it encourages accused individuals to take plea bargains. Gabriel Metcalf and his mother, who live on a limited income, continue to advocate for their constitutional rights. A fundraising campaign has been initiated by Metcalf’s mother to aid in their legal defense and to advocate for Second Amendment rights.

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