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
Outback Steakhouse: No Rights, Just Rules

News  

Friday, February 9, 2018

Outback Steakhouse: No Rights, Just Rules

The word “Outback” used to conjure images of Australia’s tenacious frontier spirit; of hunters, ranchers, and other adventurers who carved out a harsh existence from an unforgiving land.

Monday, June 23, 2014

ALERT: Governor Rick Scott Makes History Signing 5 Pro-gun Bills

On, Friday, June 20, 2014, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed 5 pro-gun bills into law.  A strong supporter of the Second Amendment, Governor Rick Scott has now signed more pro-gun bills into law -- in ...

A Promise Kept: Trump Signs Repeal of Obama-Era Social Security Gun Prohibition Rule

News  

Friday, March 3, 2017

A Promise Kept: Trump Signs Repeal of Obama-Era Social Security Gun Prohibition Rule

On Tuesday, President Donald J. Trump signed the repeal of an Obama-era Social Security Administration (SSA) rule that would have resulted in some 75,000 law-abiding beneficiaries losing their Second Amendment rights each year. 

What the Media Doesn’t Want You to Know: Enactment of National Reciprocity is Closer than Ever!

News  

Friday, February 2, 2018

What the Media Doesn’t Want You to Know: Enactment of National Reciprocity is Closer than Ever!

Anybody who is exposed to the so-called news media these days faces a barrage of bewildering and often outlandish claims. “Breaking news” cycles through the public eye with such frequency and speed that knowing what’s ...

NRA Endorses Screnock for State Supreme Court

Second Amendment  

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

NRA Endorses Screnock for State Supreme Court

The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) is proud to endorse Judge Michael Screnock for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. 

Oregon: Anti-Gun Bills Scheduled For Vote

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Oregon: Anti-Gun Bills Scheduled For Vote

On February 15th, the Oregon state House of Representatives will hold a vote on House Bill 4145, which would significantly expand the class of persons who could be stripped of their Second Amendment rights. In ...

Washington: Gun Bills to Be Heard Next Week

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Washington: Gun Bills to Be Heard Next Week

On February 9th, the Washington state Senate passed Senate Bill 6298 to expand the category of persons stripped of their Second Amendment rights and it is now scheduled for a hearing in the House Judiciary ...

Gun Laws  

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Citizen's Guide To Federal Firearms Laws - Summary

A Citizen`s Guide to Federal Firearms Laws A summary of federal restrictions on the purchase, sale, possession, and transportation of firearms and ammunition. Caution: Firearm laws are subject to frequent change and court interpretation.

News  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mental Health and Firearms

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 ...

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

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.