Police in Clayton, New Jersey, confiscated two guns from a woman after she complained about county government moving to raise her property taxes and inspect her property without a search warrant.
Eileen Hart of Franklin Township was arrested and charged with making terroristic threats, disorderly conduct and harassing officials from the Gloucester County Office of Assessment and Appraisal Systems, Inc.
A county tax assessor told police Hart attended a meeting held with Franklin Township residents to discuss a property revaluation program the county instituted to “bring all home values up to the current market value,” according to the South Jersey Times.
Assessment and Appraisal Systems told the Gloucester County Times last August the pilot revaluation program is not about raising taxes. “A revaluation is not necessary to raise taxes,” Ernest DelGuercio, CEO of the assessment company, told the newspaper. “It ensures everyone is paying their fair share – no more and no less.”
Residents have complained the assessment program violates the Fourth Amendment. In order to make revaluation assessments and determine the tax value of a property, company inspectors must enter homes and inspect them. If not allowed to do so, the company often assesses higher values on homes, leading to increased taxes.
Eileen Hart said she did not allow the Assessment and Appraisal Systems to inspect her home because her husband was not present at the time. She also cited religious reasons. Because it was denied access, the company revalued her property at a higher rate. Hart attended the meeting last weekend to complain about the revaluation and the arbitrary move by the county to assess the value of her property.
After she began reciting the Constitution to support her argument, an Appraisal Systems employee escorted her from the public building.
“I didn’t scream, I didn’t yell,” she told the Examiner. “I have the right to air my grievances against the government in a public setting. I’ve never threatened anyone a day in my life.”
“She also wouldn’t let me speak and told me to sit down and shut up and listen as well,” she explained. “That’s when the young man came toward me. I knew he was going to put his hands on me. I saw him out of the corner of my eye. I said to him ‘Don’t you dare touch me.’ Then they threw us out of the auditorium. The young man from Appraisal Systems, Inc. was the one going postal, and I believe if he had a gun, he would have shot me (and my family) on the spot. I was calm the entire time.”
A spokeswoman for Gloucester County said the assessor “has never experienced this type of extreme behavior from a taxpayer” and the police were notified, apparently because reading the Constitution is considered extremist and a threat.
Although Hart exercised her Fourth Amendment right by not allowing an inspection by government without a court-issued warrant, it did manage to violate her Second Amendment right by confiscating her firearms.
After police arrested her, they demanded she hand over her two guns, a .357-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver and a .40-caliber Glock for “safekeeping.” If she had refused, a judge would have set bail too high for her family to pay.
“I have permits for each of them. I applied legally, I got them legally,” she said. “Now I can’t defend myself. I never said the word ‘gun’ at the meeting. None of those people would have even known I was a gun owner.”