NRA Explore
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
Ohio: NICS Compliant Standard Now Recognized for All Valid Ohio Concealed Handgun License Holders

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Ohio: NICS Compliant Standard Now Recognized for All Valid Ohio Concealed Handgun License Holders

Yesterday, Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that Ohioans who possess a valid concealed handgun license no longer have to submit themselves to additional background checks when purchasing firearms.  The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and ...

Sen. Schumer Introduces Gun Control Bill After Brady Campaign Tantrum

Friday, May 20, 2016

Sen. Schumer Introduces Gun Control Bill After Brady Campaign Tantrum

For the past several months, Brady Campaign President Dan Gross has been repeatedly telling anyone who will listen that support for gun control is at a “tipping point.” Gross’ theory suffered a blow this week as the Brady Campaign ...

Outrage of the Week: Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin Blocks Efforts to Restore Rights to Veterans

Friday, May 20, 2016

Outrage of the Week: Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin Blocks Efforts to Restore Rights to Veterans

We have long reported on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) scandalous practice of reporting to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)  any VA beneficiary who has had a “fiduciary” appointed to help the individual ...

West Virginia: Permitless Carry to take Effect Today, May 24!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

West Virginia: Permitless Carry to take Effect Today, May 24!

Today, May 24, the provisions of House Bill 4145, West Virginia’s permitless/constitutional carry legislation, take effect.  Please refer to NRA-ILA’s HB 4145 Fact Sheet for important information on this monumental pro-gun reform.

North Carolina: Right to Hunt and Fish Legislation Introduced

Thursday, May 26, 2016

North Carolina: Right to Hunt and Fish Legislation Introduced

Yesterday, Senate Bill 889 was introduced in the North Carolina state senate.  S889 seeks to amend the North Carolina Constitution to affirm that it is a right of the public to hunt, fish and harvest ...

NRA Endorses Donald Trump for President of the United States

News  

Friday, May 20, 2016

NRA Endorses Donald Trump for President of the United States

The chairman of the National Rifle Association's Political Victory Fund, Chris W. Cox, released the following statement on Friday:

Maryland: Governor Hogan Signs Pro-Gun Bill into Law

Friday, May 20, 2016

Maryland: Governor Hogan Signs Pro-Gun Bill into Law

Yesterday, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed House Bill 312 into law.

California: Anti-Gun Bills Sent to Assembly Suspense File Scheduled to be Heard Tomorrow, May 27

Thursday, May 26, 2016

California: Anti-Gun Bills Sent to Assembly Suspense File Scheduled to be Heard Tomorrow, May 27

On Friday May 27, the state Assembly Committee on Appropriations is scheduled to hear all the bills sent to the suspense file.  There are five anti-gun bills that greatly impact gun owners, sportsmen, and Second ...

California: Anti-Gun Legislators Steamroll Through the Senate

Thursday, May 19, 2016

California: Anti-Gun Legislators Steamroll Through the Senate

Today, Thursday, May 19, anti-gun Senators continued the assault on your rights, voting through ten anti-gun bills and moving one step closer to the Governor’s desk. The ongoing feud between anti-gun senators and Lt Governor ...

South Carolina: Time Running Out for South Carolina Right-to-Carry Recognition

Thursday, May 26, 2016

South Carolina: Time Running Out for South Carolina Right-to-Carry Recognition

The South Carolina Senate is set to adjourn next week, so there is little time left to act on  H. 3799.  While the bill is on the Special Order calendar, anti-gun state Senator Marlon Kimpson (D-42) is leading the charge ...

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.