Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN News

Mental Health and Firearms

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Since 1966, the National Rifle Association has urged the federal government to address the problem of mental illness and violence. As we noted then, “the time is at hand to seek means by which society can identify, treat and temporarily isolate such individuals,” because “elimination of the instrument by which these crimes are committed cannot arrest the ravages of a psychotic murderer.”[1]

More recently, the NRA has supported legislation to ensure that appropriate records of those who have been judged mentally incompetent or involuntarily committed to mental institutions be made available for use in firearms transfer background checks. The NRA will support any reasonable step to fix America’s broken mental health system without intruding on the constitutional rights of Americans.

Federal Law

Since 1968, federal law has barred the possession or acquisition of firearms by anyone who “has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution.”[2]

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has issued regulations that define an “adjudication” as a “determination by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority that a person is, as a result of marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease: (1) Is a danger to himself or to others; or (2) Lacks the mental capacity to contract or manage his own affairs.” This includes a finding of insanity or incompetency in a criminal case.[3]

“Committed to a mental institution” is defined as a “formal commitment of a person to a mental institution by a court, board, or other lawful authority.” The definition makes clear that “[t]he term does not include a person in a mental institution for observation or a voluntary admission.”  The Supreme Court has held that an involuntary commitment is a serious deprivation of liberty that requires due process of law under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.[4]

A person cannot be federally disqualified from owning a gun based simply on a psychiatrist’s diagnosis, a doctor’s referral, or the opinion of a law enforcement officer, let alone based on getting a drug prescription or seeking mental health treatment. Doing so would actually discourage troubled people from getting the help they need.

Instant Check Improvements

In January 2008, President George W. Bush signed the bipartisan “NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007.”[5] The NRA-supported legislation created incentives for states to upgrade their procedures for timely and accurate reporting of records—including mental health records—to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. All federal firearm licensees are required to check the system (either directly or through a state point of contact) before proceeding with a sale.[6] To accomplish this task, the legislation authorized federal grants to states that improve their record keeping and supply those records to NICS, while also developing procedures under which people who have recovered from mental illness can get their firearms rights restored.

To support state cooperation in providing records, the NRA has worked with lawmakers in many states to pass legislation to implement the federal law. Passage of such legislation, along with other administrative and policy changes at the state level, has allowed states to provide hundreds of thousands of mental health records to NICS since 2008.

In recent years, anti-gun lawmakers have introduced legislation to expand the definition of people barred from possessing firearms to include persons who have simply been ordered to receive counseling. This could include a person whose employer or school administrator orders him to receive counseling as a condition of employment or enrollment, regardless of the outcome of such counseling. Similarly onerous legislation has been introduced in some states. At least one attempt has been made to ban gun ownership by anyone with any recognized diagnosis from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—an outrageously broad standard that would affect the rights of countless Americans.

Veterans and Mental Health

The danger of overbroad mental health disqualifiers is already clear to tens of thousands of veterans. Veterans and family members who receive benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs and have simply had personal representatives appointed to manage those benefits are currently labeled as “mentally defective,” reported to NICS and barred from gun possession. Fortunately, the NICS Improvement Amendments Act required federal agencies that make such decisions to provide avenues for legal relief as well.



[1] “The Mentally Ill,” The American Rifleman (Sept. 1966).

[2] 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(d)(4), (g)(4).

[3] 27 CFR § 478.11.

[4] Addington v. Texas, 441 U.S. 418 (1979).

[5] Pub. L. 110-180.

[6] Many state firearm licenses serve as an alternative to NICS. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(t).

TRENDING NOW
Washington: One Anti-Gun Substitute Dies in Committee, Another is Headed to the House Floor

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Washington: One Anti-Gun Substitute Dies in Committee, Another is Headed to the House Floor

Today, the House Judiciary Committee considered substitute bills for House Bill 1387 and House Bill 1122. 

Massachusetts: Legislation Introduced to Challenge AG Healey’s Gun Ban

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Massachusetts: Legislation Introduced to Challenge AG Healey’s Gun Ban

The Massachusetts General Court’s 2017 legislative session is in full swing with the introduction of numerous pro- and anti-gun bills.  Among the pro-gun bills are Senate Docket 1157 and Senate Docket 1889.  Both SD 1157 ...

Kentucky: House Introduces Constitutional/Permitless Carry Legislation

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Kentucky: House Introduces Constitutional/Permitless Carry Legislation

The Kentucky House of Representatives introduced their own constitutional/permitless carry bill. House Bill 316, sponsored by Representative C. Wesley Morgan (R-81), recognizes Kentuckians’ freedom to legally carry a concealed firearm without the burdensome requirement of acquiring ...

Senate Votes to Block Obama Social Security Administration Gun Ban; Legislation Heads to President Trump

News  

Friday, February 17, 2017

Senate Votes to Block Obama Social Security Administration Gun Ban; Legislation Heads to President Trump

On Wednesday morning, the U.S. Senate voted 57-43 in favor of H.J.Res.40, which would block the implementation of an Obama-era rule under which the Social Security Administration (SSA) would report the names of tens of ...

NRA-Backed Resolution to Stop Obama Attack on State Wildlife Management Passes House

News  

Hunting  

Friday, February 17, 2017

NRA-Backed Resolution to Stop Obama Attack on State Wildlife Management Passes House

On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.J. Res. 69, a measure that would use the Congressional Review Act to repeal an Obama-era rule passed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to preempt ...

Connecticut Governor Covers for Failed Policies by Increasing Fees on Gun Owners

News  

Friday, February 17, 2017

Connecticut Governor Covers for Failed Policies by Increasing Fees on Gun Owners

Times are tough in the Constitution State, where Democrat governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut, despite governing the fifth wealthiest state in the nation, where 25% of households earn more than $100,000 and 10% earn more ...

California DOJ Withdraws “Assault Weapon” Regulations

Monday, February 13, 2017

California DOJ Withdraws “Assault Weapon” Regulations

As previously reported, after the California Department of Justice submitted regulations regarding newly classified “assault weapons” to the Office of Administrative Law (“OAL”) for publication in the California Code of Regulations (CCR), NRA and California ...

Georgia: Multiple Firearm-Related Bills to be Considered in Committee Next Week

Friday, February 17, 2017

Georgia: Multiple Firearm-Related Bills to be Considered in Committee Next Week

On Monday, February 20, the Georgia House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee is scheduled to hear multiple important pro-gun bills:

Washington: Gun Control Bills to be Voted on in House Committee

Monday, February 13, 2017

Washington: Gun Control Bills to be Voted on in House Committee

This Thursday, February 16th, the Washington House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on House Bill 1387 and House Bill 1122.

Media Smears the Disabled, Misinforms on Social Security Gun Ban

News  

Friday, February 17, 2017

Media Smears the Disabled, Misinforms on Social Security Gun Ban

Last week, the Richmond Times-Dispatch issued an editorial titled, “Time to license guns - for journalists,” which cited an embarrassing string of journalistic blunders to illustrate the media’s dearth of firearms knowledge. The piece concluded, ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -
NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.