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
Court Rules Second Amendment Prohibits Federal Pre-Conviction Firearms Ban

News  

Monday, September 26, 2022

Court Rules Second Amendment Prohibits Federal Pre-Conviction Firearms Ban

Last week, a federal judge in the Western District of Texas ruled that a law which prohibits the acquisition of firearms by someone who is under felony indictment violates the Second Amendment. The decision to ...

More Pushback on Credit Card Surveillance of Firearm Buyers

News  

Monday, September 26, 2022

More Pushback on Credit Card Surveillance of Firearm Buyers

As we’ve previously reported, on September 9, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) approved a Merchant Category Code (MCC) for firearm retailers. MCCs enable payment processors and banks to categorize, monitor, and collect data on various types of ...

Illinois Sets the Stage for Possible Unprecedented Crime Wave

News  

Monday, September 26, 2022

Illinois Sets the Stage for Possible Unprecedented Crime Wave

As part of a criminal justice “reform” effort, the state of Illinois is preparing to unleash the first statewide no-cash bail law, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, and the ramifications could ...

Update: Further Dispatches from New York’s War on Guns

News  

Monday, September 26, 2022

Update: Further Dispatches from New York’s War on Guns

Speaking about her new gun control legislation, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul claimed that “we took swift and thoughtful action to keep New Yorkers safe…. we will continue leading the way forward and implementing ...

Shipping Companies Prohibit the Lawful Shipping of Firearms

News  

Monday, September 19, 2022

Shipping Companies Prohibit the Lawful Shipping of Firearms

Wondering what federal law says regarding individuals who do not have a Federal Firearms License (FFL) that need to ship firearms? Well, if you go to the website for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and ...

South Carolina: The City of Columbia Passes More Unconstitutional Gun Control

Friday, September 23, 2022

South Carolina: The City of Columbia Passes More Unconstitutional Gun Control

Last week, the Columbia City Council passed Ordinance No.: 2022-080 to require its residents to report their lost or stolen firearms to the police within 24 hours or face up to a $500 fine. This is ...

Brace Yourself: Biden Administration Reinterprets “Firearm,” Prepares Crackdown

News  

Monday, August 29, 2022

Brace Yourself: Biden Administration Reinterprets “Firearm,” Prepares Crackdown

When we say “brace yourself,” we’re not kidding. The pistol brace rule is coming as well. But first, a different sort of crackdown was unleashed on the nation this week, as an ATF rule published ...

Financial Surveillance Used to Build Gun Owner Registry

News  

Monday, September 19, 2022

Financial Surveillance Used to Build Gun Owner Registry

On September 9, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) approved a Merchant Category Code (MCC) for firearm retailers. The ISO is a Geneva-based non-governmental organization that consists of a network of “standards bodies” from around the globe ...

Join us for the 2022 NRA-ILA Firearms Law & the Second Amendment Symposium on October 8th in Pittsburgh

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Join us for the 2022 NRA-ILA Firearms Law & the Second Amendment Symposium on October 8th in Pittsburgh

Join us for the 2022 NRA-ILA Firearms Law & The Second Amendment Symposium on Saturday, October 8th, at the Doubletree Hilton Pittsburgh-Green Tree in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

OREGON: Vote NO on Ballot Measure 114!

News  

Thursday, September 15, 2022

OREGON: Vote NO on Ballot Measure 114!

Ballot Measure 114 is the nation’s most extreme gun control Initiative and will be voted on this November! The NRA has launched a website to inform voters why they must VOTE NO on Ballot Measure 114.  It ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

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.