On Thursday, a U.S. appellate court’s three-judge panel unanimously held that a federal law prohibiting a man from purchasing a firearm because he’d been committed to a mental health facility 28 years ago was a violation of his Second Amendment rights.
Michigan resident Clifford Charles Tyler, 73, attempted to purchase a handgun in 2011 but failed the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, according to Fox News. The reason given was that he’d been committed for one month in 1986 to a mental institution for emotional problems following a divorce.
The following year he filed his action in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan. When the trial court denied him relief, he filed his appeal with the federal appeals court.
Since 2008, a federal appellate court has ruled only one other federal gun law as being unconstitutional. That was D.C. vs Heller, which struck down Washington, D.C.’s outright ban on gun ownership within the city.
The court’s ruling Thursday will hopefully have a “significant impact on the jurisprudence in the area of gun rights,” Tyler’s lawyer, Lucas McCarthy, said.
According to Fox News:
Federal law bans gun ownership for convicted felons, people under 18, illegal immigrants, drug addicts and those ordered by a court to a mental institution. The law also says that people must have a chance to prove that their disqualifying disabilities have ended in order to possess a firearm legally.
Since 2008, states have been able to get federal grants to set up “relief from disabilities program,” which was defunded in 1992. Michigan has not set one up, which left Tyler without a way to prove that his so-called “disability” should no longer apply.
“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 for the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel in a 28-page opinion.
Boggs was appointed to the bench in 1986 by then-President Ronald Reagan. The other two judges, Eugene Edward Siler, Jr and Julia Smith Gibbons, are both appointees of President George H. W. Bush.
“There is no indication in this record of the continued risk presented by people who were involuntarily committed twenty-eight years ago and who have no history of mental illness, criminal activity, or substance abuse,” Boggs continued. “Indeed, Congress seems to have focused on the risk presented by those who are mentally ill, rather than the continued risk of those who were long ago found to be mentally ill.”