Mental Illness History Ruled on Appeal to Not Bar Gun Ownership

A federal appeals court concluded that a history of mental illness shouldn’t bar citizens from owning a weapon in a first such ruling that may expand the rights of millions of U.S. gun owners.

A federal law barring a Michigan man in 2011 from owning a gun because he was committed to a mental institution more than 20 years earlier is unconstitutional, a three-judge panel of the Cincinnati-based court ruled Dec. 18.

A provision in law that bans gun ownership for anyone “adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution” violates the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the panel found.

The ruling stems from a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision that found, for the first time, that the Constitution protects individual gun rights. In that case, the high court struck down a handgun ban imposed by the District of Columbia and the ruling raised questions about other restrictions on weapons.

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in the D.C. case resolved a constitutional question that had lurked for two centuries: whether the Second Amendment covers people who aren’t affiliated with a state-run militia.