Appeals Court: Banning Former Mental Patients from Gun Ownership is Unconstitutional

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Published on: December 23, 2014

In a ruling that will likely upset many, a US Appeals Court in Cincinnati ruled Thursday that it is unconstitutional to keep a Michigan man, who was a former mental patient, from owning a gun.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

A three-judge panel of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the federal ban on gun ownership for anyone who has been “adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution” violated the Second Amendment rights of Clifford Charles Tyler, a 73-year-old Hillsdale County man.

“The government’s interest in keeping firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill is not sufficiently related to depriving the mentally healthy, who had a distant episode of commitment, of their constitutional rights,” wrote Judge Danny Boggs, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan, for the panel.

Lucas McCarthy, Mr. Tyler’s lawyer, called the ruling “a forceful decision to protect Second Amendment rights,” and said he hoped it that it would have “a significant impact on the jurisprudence in the area of gun rights.”

73-year-old Clifford Charles Tyler was committed to a mental institution back in 1986 after he faced emotional problems as a result of a divorce. Tyler was only at the institution for one month.

Upon attempting to purchase a gun recently, Tyler was denied based on the fact that he had been admitted to a mental institution.

While there are a number of reasons that people are kept from owning guns legally (though the federal government should not be dealing with any restrictions on arms), there is also provision for those who have had “disabilities,” to prove that they no longer have them.

Though the federal government provided a program that allegedly helped those get relief of their “disabilities,” that the program was defunded in 1992. However, in 2008, states were able to set up their own program with federal grant money (something that seems quite questionable concerning constitutionality).

Judge Danny Julian Boggs wrote, “Whether Tyler may exercise his right to bear arms depends on whether his state of residence has chosen to accept the carrot of federal grant money and has implemented a relief program.… An individual’s ability to exercise a fundamental right necessary to our system of ordered liberty cannot turn on such a distinction.”

I like how Judge Boggs framed his statements in demonstrating just how the federal government ties strings to everything the states get money for and how they inevitably infringe on the rights of the people.

The landmark Heller case was also referenced, which struck down the Washington DC ban on gun ownership.

According to the court’s decision:

The Court’s “assurance” that Heller does not cast doubt on prohibitions on the possession of firearms by the mentally ill does not resolve this case. For § 922(g)(4) prohibits firearm possession not just by the mentally ill but by anyone “who has been committed to a mental institution.” That these two categories are not coextensive is made clear by the very fact that the language of § 922(g)(4) expressly refers to two separate groups. See Circuit City Stores, Inc. v. Adams, 532 U.S. 105, 113 (2001) (presumption against redundancy).

Although it is plausible that the two groups overlap, the point is that we presume they are not identical. Heller’s assurance that the state may prohibit the “mentally ill” from possessing firearms may provide solid constitutional ground for § 922(g)(4)’s restriction as to an individual “adjudicated as a mental defective,” but it is insufficient—by itself—to support the restriction as to individuals who have been involuntarily committed at some time in the past. Therefore, we cannot resolve this case by relying solely on Heller’s “assurances,” as we did in rejecting a Second Amendment challenge to a denial of an expungement motion in a case involving § 922(g)(1)’s bar on possession of firearms by felons. See United States v. Carey, 602 F.3d 738, 740–41 (6th Cir. 2010).

As I’ve reported previously, for the first time in two decades, more Americans favor the liberty that comes with gun ownership than more government tyranny that comes in the form of legislation that restricts owning arms.

There is no doubt that more legal challenges will follow this one. Hopefully, they will begin to tear at the fabric of the unconstitutional federal gun laws that have been erected in violation of the Constitution’s Second Amendment provision and the rights of the people.

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