6th Circuit Seal (courtesy adfmedia.org)

“The three-judge panel of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that a federal ban on gun ownership for those who have been committed to a mental institution violated the Second Amendment rights of 73-year-old Clifford Charles Tyler,” foxnews.com reports. [Click here for the ruling.] “Tyler attempted to buy a gun and was denied on the grounds that he had been committed to a mental institution in 1986 after suffering emotional problems stemming from a divorce. He was only in there for a month.” Does the length of his treatment matter? In fact . . .

The only question should be: is the gun buyer a danger to themselves or others at the time of purchase? No. Wait. That’s not right. The only question should be no question. There should be no laws infringing upon all Americans’ natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms.

Short of that, this is good news for gun rights. It’s a torpedo aimed directly at the antis’ efforts to make gun ownership a “public health issue.” A subterfuge that’s been gaining ground recently, what with anti-gunner Vivek Murthy’s appointment as the Surgeon General and $700m in the federal budget to encourage states to submit citizens’ mental health records to the FBI’s background check system.

“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.

Note to people concerned about crazy people getting guns: if someone is too crazy to own a gun they should not be walking around in society. As the Brits put it, p*ss or get off the pot.   [h/t TP]

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61 Responses to 6th Circuit Court Strikes Down Federal Mental Health Gun Ban

    • Keep in mind that President Reagan appointed one of the judges on that panel approximately 30 years ago … which supports your assertion that government employees with even a little common sense are indeed rare these days.

  1. This is the common sense that the anti-gun crowd does not get.

    Just because this man had to go to mental health counseling for less than a month 28yrs ago does not mean he should no longer have any rights for the rest of his life.

    • You are right about the useful idiot rank and file. I suspect the leaders know perfectly well what they are doing. They have shifted from trying to ban whole classes of firearms one class at a time to trying to ban whole classes of people one class at a time.

      If they can ever get a link between the terror watch list and the Federal NICS data-base to stick, watch how quickly every conservative they can identify get added to the watch list.

  2. Holy pop ups batman. In the past five minutes this site has opened the App Store automatically more often than I have all year.

    • Lately I have seen a few sites that perform terribly … with some leading to Microsoft Internet Explorer hogging over 1 GB of RAM on my computer over the course of a few minutes. Switching to Google Chrome hasn’t helped very much.

      • I’ve been very unhappy with the performance of several webpages (including this one) for several months now.

        After doing a lot of experimentation, I have switched to Firefox and installed:

        – a flashblocker
        – an ad blocker
        – a java script blocker
        – a tracking link stripper

        Each of these tools starts as a “white list” that blocks everything by default. Then I can add the things that I am willing to let run.

        This has significantly improved the performace of the web writ large since I have instituted these policies.

        I’ve found that it is the scripts (especially the Facebook scripts), not the flash, that is usually the problem. For instance, on this article page alone, I count no less than 12 entities (all but one of them 3rd party) that have attemped to execute scripts. I have allowed only one to execute (TTAB.com) so that I can comment here and I will contiue to disallow all the others.

        One warning though: If you are lazy, no amount of browser switches or addon tools can help you.

        You have to be willing to deal with the security prompts and experiment until you have identified what scripts are the problem. It’s taken me a couple weeks of working with the script blocker (NoScript) to get a good handle on what scripts I need to allow to get the content i want while excluding the stuff I don’t want.

        • Good advice for general browsers. Mobile platforms generally don’t have those sorts of options.

        • No bit of advice is perfect, is it? :^D

          Not all criticisms are either, thankfully.

          I run Firefox on Android as well and I am pleased to report that most of the things I suggested do have these sorts of options.

          – a flashblocker – No good options. Not a surpirse since flash is always dodgy on Android.

          – an ad blocker – Ad Block Plus. You can’t find it in Google play because they blacklisted it for blocking Google’s ads.

          – a java script blocker – NoScript Anywhere (NSA), currently in alpha development (if you use the latested FF). If you still use a Firefox that dates from before the architecture changover, you can use the older version of NS.

          – a tracking link stripper – Clean Links, same as the desktop browser.

        • Palemoon v25 (stripped down Firefox without google search bulit in) is now avaklable, completely unshackled from Mozilla.

          Supports Ad Blocker Latitude (improved ver of Plus), ghostery and no script.
          Faster than Chrome and no ads or Google tracking.

          IMHO browsing on a phone or other device in mobile is asking for trouble, esp Android.
          Ymmv.

  3. …if someone is too crazy to own a gun they should not be walking around in society.

    That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?

    Note: you can substitute “criminal” or “dangerous” for “crazy”, and the statement remains true. If we kept all such people locked up where they belong, there would be no basis for completely ineffective background checks.

    • And now you know why .gov will not keep such truly dangerous people locked up: letting violent criminals out of prison serves many government interests. Of course it does not serve any interests of We The People but that doesn’t matter to .gov.

    • Careful with this theme — if they can’t keep people of whom they don’t approve from getting firearms, they’ll just start locking people up.

      More, I should say — the U.S. makes China look like a merciful, benevolent state, the way we already lock people up.

      Remember, federal prosecutors are bound neither by common law nor by standing interpretation of law in order to go after someone. It would be simple for them to twist some existing law and use it to get people imprisoned — really, anyone who wants a gun must be dangerous, so they should be locked up, right?

  4. The stereotypical left painted itself into a corner with regards to restricting the rights of minorities, women and the disabled.

    A lot of overlap with institutions that promote fair, equal and respectful treatment of people with mental illness and those who rant about crazies having access to guns. Same with insisting released felons get to do anything non-felons can do except participate in the 2nd. I’m supposed to trust this person to live next door to me but I’m supposed to fear him owning a gun?

    • They’ll just stop granting parole, and use any other avenue available to make sure people stay locked up longer. We already have millions of people locked up who have never harmed a single individual (except, arguably, themselves); there will be no hesitation at just locking up everyone they think might be dangerous, especially since people already get locked up because they MIGHT commit a crime.

  5. This guy probably had divorce related depression, got some counseling, and got over it. On the Fox article people were complaining about this case saying that the mentally ill get guns now… The idiocy…

    There is supposed to be an appeals court for mental health related disqualification, but the federal government defunded that measure at some point creating a permanent trap for temporary mental health issues. That is why the law was overturned.

  6. This is encouraging to hear.

    Americans rights shouldn’t be stripped away because of a past isolated incident, nearly 30 years ago. It’s amazing when the courts stand up to idiot anti-gun laws imposed by those who wish to eradicate that freedom for others.

  7. They may actually be savvy to the fact that people who need help will do anything to AVOID getting it, if doing so means that they’ll have a permanent record of “crazy person” following them around for the rest of their lives, depriving them of all manner of rights and privileges, and creating the kind of stigma that would make most of us want to curl up and die.

  8. Coming soon to a SAFE Act near you?

    This could prove VERY helpful for us New York residents who are still trying to destroy this thing. Mental health records have no business being part of the NICS check, nor should they be considered with this State Police run background check system that they’re still trying to set up for ammo purchases.

  9. This will also have a HUGE impact on the veterans who may need treatment for PTSD. The Obama administration has been using the VA to disarm those vets who seek treatment from the very agency that is supposed to help them – the VA. They are being denied their 2nd Amendment rights simply because they seek help, not because they are so mentally ill that they should be committed.

    The Obama administration is using the same “mental health” ploy that the USSR used on dissidents, sending them to “insane asylums” for criticizing Stalin.

  10. So the antis will read that you think Sandy Hook was okay.

    I’m glad about the court’s decision. This was a long time ago so there is a distinction. However how would you have “we the people deal with Adam Lanza? His mother dropped the ball a long time before Sandy Hook. Would you have any restrictions on his use, ownership or purchase of guns?

    • Aside from blatantly unconstitutional gun ban and pre-crime initiatives that would inevitably be expanded to assail the other amendments as well, what law that wasn’t already on the books in CT would have prevented it? If the question is “how many kids have to die” my answer is “exactly, repeal gun free zones now!” and it seems most voters would agree.

    • GREAT question! I wish I had a great answer. I have known some “crazy” people in my 58 years, and most were totally harmless (hey, who among us doesn’t hear an extra voice in their head once in a while?), but a couple were potentially violent and probably should have been under lock and key. It’s hard to draw a line and say that up to “here” you are ok, but worse than this arbitrarily calculated number, you can’t be trusted with firearms, scissors, or a sharp pencil. As to saying, “Note to people concerned about crazy people getting guns: if someone is too crazy to own a gun they should not be walking around in society.” That is all well and good except that many states closed most or all of their mental institutions because of cost and either shoved the residents out onto the street or into unsecure group homes. At least that is what happened in PA. I know people who work in such homes and deal with psychotics and schizophrenics that have to be heavily medicated to be calm. They can come and go from the home, but if they miss taking their meds, bad things can happen. And that is not counting the “crazy” people that should be locked up, but haven’t been diagnosed yet because their schizophrenia is just now manifesting itself. Those people are just fine up until they are not. Like I said, I don’t have a great answer, but there are some folks out walking around that really should be MUCH more closely supervised in a secure place. Adam Lanza was one of those people, and in his case, I blame his parents.

      • This is where the legal ability to exercise the right of self defense is crucial. A person that needed more control was free to commit murder while the law tied the hands of individuals to defend against him.

        I’m not in favor of locking up people unnecessarily. However, the rest of society must have the legal opportunity to defend themselves against those who slip off of that edge and attempt to visit violence upon others. As we all know, the individual is ultimately responsible for their own safety. Government interfering with the ability of the individual to bear that personal responsibility is unconscionable.

      • Blaming Lanza’s parents is all well and good, too, but leads to the question of what you would expect them to do? Few people would be prepared to pay $50,000+ per year for the rest of their lives to keep the “child” in a secure facility forever, and the law may not allow that after he turns 21 anyway. The state won’t do it because the SCOTUS said they can’t. No, the fault was that the people entrusted with the safety of children were not prepared or willing to defend those children.

  11. “If someone is too crazy to own a gun they should not be walking around in society.”

    This is a tough one for me. My dad recently leapt from the precipice of sanity into sea of utterly nuts. He was placed in a mental institute for a month or so to regulate is meds and eventually placed under the care of a guardian. He is now living in an assisted living facility with his medications monitored but is otherwise free to go about living like normal. He is absolutely not safe with a gun but is ok “walking around in society”. I would say it needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis and blanket statements like that are dangerous for everyone.

  12. Restrictions must have an expiration date. A woman convicted of domestic violence thirty years ago (e.g. misdemeanor aggravated husband improvement in the first degree) should get a restart after twenty-five peaceful years with the next husband. The same goes for men, and for old psychiatric troubles, and so forth. I’m not so sympathetic to the violent felony reset, but I’m no expert.

  13. I believe the NICS improvement act granted funding to states on two conditions

    1. Set up a system to report mental health records to the Feds

    2. Set up a system to grant relief from firearm disability

    So in some states you can have your firearm rights restored after mental health prohibition. But not in states that didn’t do this

    Indeed, the number 2 there, granted to get pro gun votes, was bullshit. Because it not only doesn’t give funding to states that already have such mechanisms, it prevents the feds from even recognizing such mechanisms.

    So we get this situation where even when California is willing to restore firearm rights, the Feds refuse to recognize it. With mental health, indeed, those committed under WIC 5150 are only prohibited for 5 yrs and may petition to have that lifted sooner, which petition must be granted unless the state can demonstrate the person is a danger to self or others. Those committed under 5250 are prohibited by life, but may petition, similarly, for restoration. So the state grants it, and the Feds say, sorry even though California’s method requires a judge and somewhat laborious procedure, and is stricter than say Idaho where we do recognize such acts, screw you.

    Got to love the stupidity there

  14. I suspect we agree that the severely mentally ill, those with disillusions, hearing voices, those who are bi-polar or otherwise suffering with schizophrenia or other significant psychological disorder, should NEVER be allowed to have firearms.

    Someone having difficulties during a divorce, which can be extremely trying for some as it deals with an entire destabilization of the very root of what keeps many of us grounded and can be a very tough pill to swallow. Yes and then there are those of us who yell “hallelujah, the bi– is gone!” sit down and clean their AR while watching Breaking Bad.

    Destabilizing events in someones life such as a loss of job, financial difficulties, a death, illness etc are known to be a catalyst for situational depression. Many people don’t even know what’s going on or why they are in the dumps, so to speak. It’s usually temporary and usually goes away on its own. Some folks may see a professional. However, short of a professional diagnoses of a psychological disorder, I certainly agree with the courts opinion.

    • Make that “hear voices which tell them to do things”. My doc acknowledged that a certain segment of people who hear voices have voices that tell them stupid, but not dangerous, stuff.
      Then there’s my case: I sometimes hear voices like there’s a cocktail party in the next room and I can’t tell what anyone is talking about. I treat them the way I do any cocktail party: I have better things to do with my time.

      Of course there are also people who hear music that isn’t there . . . would it matter what kind of music they hear?

      >wicked grin<

      • Hearing voices or music can be metal illness. Equally other reasons apply.
        short list; dental metalwork, temporary sensitivity to sounds, assorted supernatural talents that come and go for you or the same being sent. and of course the possibility that for a while you are running your brain on dual tracks or flashbacks from drugs, injuries or other natural causes.
        Merely hearing voices or music may be abnormal. But unless they tell you to do something damaging to others, insane or even crazy does not apply. Some lottery winners heard voices in their head and won. Plainly the voice was correct.
        As to the court case, it is a right, as such strict scrutiny should apply. More so when a restoration of rights is allowed but blocked. Every injury has a remedy. He was ill and recovered. A fair process for civil right restoration should be functioning.

    • I suspect we agree that the severely mentally ill, those with disillusions, hearing voices, those who are bi-polar or otherwise suffering with schizophrenia or other significant psychological disorder, should NEVER be allowed to have firearms.

      No. I disagree. Although I admit that those who are genuinely incompetent ideally ought not have control of a firearm or anything else that might be dangerous to others, I do not see government prohibition as a solution. Disarming classes of individuals is not a proper role of our government. It can only end badly when our government infringes upon the individual right to keep and bear arms. Many of the bars to legitimate self defense in our laws need to be removed. The truly incompetent should be under the care of a guardian. Sometimes that guardian is a mental hospital and sometimes it’s not. For example, children are considered incompetent to a degree and are under the care of a guardian; usually a parent or parents. If the lawful guardian is unable to disarm the incompetent then the individual present at the moment becomes guardian in locus and ought not face legal ramification should the individual find a reasonable need to disarm or defend against the incompetent with necessary force. IMHO, the jury has the role to decide if the actions were reasonable and it’s not for legislators to decide. Shall not be infringed means that government has no business deciding who can keep and bear arms through laws. The corresponding balance is that laws ought not inhibit self defense against any and all reasonable threats. Let juries sort out the cases that aren’t clearly self defense.

  15. Finally, someone gets it. Everyone has a right to self defense. They had mental health institutions way back, if the founding fathers wanted an exception, it would’ve been in the 2A. There are no exceptions, every gun control “law” is an infringement.

  16. The mental health review will come in handy in future for California gun owners abused by excesses of the GVRO law, as some fear. Dean Weingarten points out this is first win on 2a rights on a federal law, and IANAL but what I’m reading this is pretty solid so it should be citable in other circuits, even if only the law in 6th.

    What is most interesting to me is the detailed discussion of levels of scrutiny, because thats been hard for me to parse elsewhere, and the decision is a VERY useful primer and record of how applied by various Circuit Courts, including alternative approaches to the two step rule, that shows a wide range of opinion on application, not the impression I got from reading the press that Justice Breyers approach was the best.

    Read pages 26_27 of decision.

    I wonder if thats part of Professor Adam Winkler opinion, as cited in WSJ, and if it tips the scales a bit against the sort of overly simplistic claims, like in Brady and Prieto amicus on Peruta, as well as Judge Thomas’ dissent.

    (pay wall on WSJ but see more here by Dave Workman)
    http://www.examiner.com/article/unconstitutional-fed-gun-ban-for-mentally-ill-violates-man-s-2a-rights

    See also Volokh at WAPO:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/12/18/second-amendment-and-people-who-had-been-committed-to-a-mental-institution-28-years-ago/

    Ralph, am I reading too much into this?

  17. I used to have a neighbor who would bark at people, stare at the sidewalk and talk to trees. I never knew him to harm anyone but I don’t know I’d want to see a 45 strapped to his hip.

    “If they’re safe enough to be out on the streets they’re safe enought to own firearms” may be an overly simplistic way of looking at it. Sounds good till you dig into the boundary cases (where all interesting law happens).

    I don’t have an answer, just food for thought.

    • I thought everyone talked to trees! I started doing that when the government put mind control satellites in space.
      I have the proof and wrote it all down!
      Now where’s my damn gun? The neighbors dog is talking to me again!

    • Surely, there were no knives, no gasoline, no chemicals, no gas line, etc in his house.

      The answer is simple. If your neighbor posed a serious and immediate threat to you then you had a personal responsibility to defend your life. It’s not government’s duty to keep us safe. If he chased after you with a garden rake, what would you have done? What if it was a hammer? A can of gasoline and a lighter? It’s not the tool, it’s the fool.

  18. Hmmm…I was pretty distraught after my last divorce 30 years ago. Never went to adoctor but I could have. And my mother went crazy for awhile when I was little(possibly from Postpartum depression). No diagnosis in the 1950’s. I think crap from 30-40 years ago bears very little relavence to now. I’m also a very different guy from 30 or 40 years ago. Good to see this decision.

  19. The decision makes an interesting read. The result is not far-reaching at all; it certainly does not justify the title of this article, because the court explicitly said that the bar against ownership by the mentally ill is legitimate under Heller. What it does at most is place the burden to demonstrate that a person is still not merely mentally ill but dangerous on the government should a prohibited person under this statute seek restoration of the free exercise of this right.

    I will say, as with previous decisions, that the language positing that the Second confers or bestows a right is incorrect; that is contrary to the positions of both federalists and anti-federalists, and so has no historical foundation.

    The real problem is that the process of regaining the free exercise of this right still imposes a substantial burden on citizens. For the most part, those under this legal impairment of their right are of less than median economic means, and the cost of the legal process is thus for the class overall a substantial one. I advocate the extension of the principle where the state must provide an attorney if a defendant cannot afford one to this issue as well: if one who is prohibited from the free exercise of the right to keep and bear arms seeks to overcome that legal disability and cannot afford legal representation, it should be provided at taxpayer expense.

  20. If they had their way any kid sent to the principles office in grade school would have their gun rights pulled for life

    • Exactly, and that is precisely the foil we all need to remember when considering potential “solutions”. A close friend told me he thought there should be an agency to evaluate the safety of firearms before they could be sold. I don’t think he is a friend anymore, he could not understand where that would eventually lead, without any question. Of course all guns are unsafe, that is why we are taught gun safety. If the govt had that power, gun sales would have just ended forever.

  21. The Second Amendment didn’t allow for exceptions, therefore anything preventing ownership is infringement.

  22. They didn’t strike down the ban, Robert. They differentiated involuntary hospitalization from being adjudicated mentally ill, and argued that the former is not sufficient reason to prohibit gun ownership. Unlike myself, the guy in this case was never found to have a mental illness. It was normal depression arising out of a divorce.

    They couldn’t strike down the ban because Scalia (who sits on the court directly above these guys) already knocked out the absolutist view of the Second Amendment when he wrote Heller. He drove the nail in deeper in his dissent in Abramski.

    Two of the founding fathers (Rush and Franklin) financed this nation’s first mental asylum. Rush ran it. I will pay $100 to anyone who can show me a primary source document that says they considered the Second Amendment absolute and allowed patients to have muskets while they were committed there.

    Remember that Scalia, as an originalist, defines the parameters of the Bill of Rights based upon how the framers would have understood it. Which is often NOT how modern people would view the same thing. Scalia’s reasoning in Heller does not support an absolutist view of the 2A.

    – John

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