Psychiatric Hospitalization Not Enough to Prevent Firearms Ownership

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( — December 23, 2014) Hillsdale County, Michigan — After a nervous breakdown which was the result of his much younger wife leaving him for another man, a man from Michigan ended up in a psychiatric hospital. Reportedly, his daughter called the guys in white because her father was constantly crying and banging his head against the floor.

Some three decades later, 73-years-old Tyler went to buy a gun, however, he was rejected as his name popped up in the database of those who were treated in a mental institution. Tyler decided to fight for his right and sued, but the court ruled he could not possess a firearm according to federal law.

“It shall be unlawful for any person… who has been adjudicated as mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution… to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce, or possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition; or to receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce,” the Federal law -18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4) says.

Tyler, however, appealed, and a three-judge panel of the Sixth US Circuit Court of Appeals, all of whom were appointed by Republican presidents, unanimously ruled Thursday that the federal ban on gun ownership violates Tyler’s Second Amendment rights.

Further more, the appeals court ruled that the federal ban on gun ownership violates the Second Amendment rights to anyone who has ‘recovered’ from mental illness that was treated in a psychiatric institution.

“[W]hether 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,” Circuit Judge Danny Boggs wrote for the three-member panel.  

According to Boggs, there is a substantial difference between those with mental illness and those with mental illness history or episode which happened a long time ago. “Two categories are not coextensive,” Boggs concluded.

Tyler’s attorney admitted to the Wall Street Journal that the case would have “a significant impact on the jurisprudence in the area of gun rights.”

Of course, the ruling raises questions about how the decision might be interpreted in the future. “An isolated incident during a rough patch decades ago shouldn’t automatically disqualify someone from owning a gun,” Amy Eddings at Ring of Fire Radio wrote. The ruling, however, if applied, could open a door for those with serious mental illnesses to call on Tyler’s case and demand constitutional right to own firearms.