Appeals court throws out federal law barring mental patients from buying guns
A federal appeals court in Cincinnati, Ohio ruled on Thursday that a Michigan man who was once committed to a mental hospital is legally allowed to own a gun.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the three-judge panel found a law forbidding Clifford Charles Tyler, 73, from owning a gun to be unconstitutional, in spite of the fact that Tyler was forced into a mental hospital decades ago.
The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling was unanimous on the subject of the law, which made it illegal for anyone who has been “adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution” to purchase firearms.
Reagan-appointee Judge Danny Boggs wrote in the decision, “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.”
Tyler’s attorney Lucas McCarthy called the decision “a forceful decision to protect Second Amendment rights,” one which he hopes will have “a significant impact on the jurisprudence in the area of gun rights.”
Tyler was hospitalized for his own protection in 1986 after a breakdown stemming from a rocky divorce. His confinement to the institution lasted less than a month. In February of 2011, he attempted to buy a firearm, only to find out that he is prevented from doing so under a 2008 ruling in the case of D.C. v. Heller.
The Sixth Court found that to be unfair, that a man who suffered a debilitating breakdown nearly 30 years ago should be prevented from owning his own weapons.
Federal law has historically provided for “relief from disabilities” appeals in which people who are forbidden from owning firearms have an avenue to contest the ban. However, the federal government defunded that program in 1992, but allowed for states to set up their own “relief from disabilities” programs.
Tyler’s state, Michigan, has yet to set up its own process, which Judge Boggs wrote is an unreasonable obstacle to Tyler’s right to own a gun.
“[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,” Boggs said. “An individual’s ability to exercise a fundamental right necessary to our system of ordered liberty cannot turn on such a distinction.”