On Thursday, the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a federal law that indefinitely banned people who had previously been committed for mental health treatment from owning a firearm. According to the ruling, the ban violated the Second Amendment.
The case was brought to the Sixth Circuit by Clifford Tyler, who spent one month in a mental institution following a divorce in 1986. Tyler was committed involuntary by his daughters, who feared for his safety. In the last 30 years he has not had any similar episodes or needed on-going mental health treatment.
When Tyler attempted to purchase a firearm in 2011, his sale was denied because he failed the FBI background check for being “mentally ill.”
In some states, a person who was deemed “mentally ill” can apply for a relief from disability, which would reinstate their gun-ownership rights. However, Tyler’s home state of Michigan does not have such a process.
Let that sink in.
Judge Julia Smith Gibbons, who wrote the court’s decision, cited District of Columbia v. Heller, a 2008 Supreme Court Case that ruled a citizen has a right to own firearms but it is lawful to ban gun ownership to criminals and those who are mentally ill.
“To rely solely on Heller‘s presumption here would amount to a judicial endorsement of Congress’ power to declare, ‘One mentally ill, always so.’ This we will not do,” the opinion read.
The majority opinion also mentions situations like Tyler’s, where a number of years have passed between his treatment and his desire for gun ownership.
“There is no indication of the continued risk presented by people who were involuntarily committed many years ago and who have no history of intervening mental illness, criminal activity, or substance abuse,” the opinion read.
Why is this important?
People who were once a victim of a horrific crime, like sexual assault survivor Kimberly Corban, can no longer be denied their Second Amendment right based on their previous mental health status. Those who wish to defend themselves against intruders or perpetrators can do so without fear of retribution.