November 5, 2014

New Report: Mental Illness and Firearm Laws

OLR Report 2014-R-0253 answers the question:What are the laws on the possession or acquisition of firearms by people with a mental illness?
Federal law prohibits anyone “adjudicated as a mental defective” or “committed to a mental institution” from shipping, transporting, receiving, or possessing firearms or ammunition, unless granted relief under a federally approved program.
State law contains certain prohibitions as well. State law applies to anyone:
  1. discharged from custody within the preceding 20 years after having been found not guilty of a crime by reason of mental disease or defect;
  2. who was confined on or after October 1, 2013, in a psychiatric hospital under a probate court order within the past (a) 60 months or (b) 12 months, if the person has a valid permit or certificate in effect before October 1, 2013;
  3. who, beginning October 1, 2013, was voluntarily admitted to a psychiatric hospital within the past six months for care and treatment of a psychiatric disability,  and not solely for being an alcohol or drug-dependent person; or
  4. who is prohibited by federal law from possessing or acquiring firearms on specified grounds, including mental health grounds.
Under state law, these people are prohibited from:
  1. possessing firearms or ammunition(CGS §§ 53a-217(a), -217c(a)),
  2. getting a permit or an eligibility certificate for a handgun (CGS §§ 29-28, -36f),
  3. getting an eligibility certificate for a long gun (CGS § 29-37p),
  4. purchasing or otherwise acquiring firearms (CGS §§ 29-33, -37a), or
  5. getting an ammunition certificate (CGS §§ 29-38n, -37p).
State law allows courts to authorize seizure of firearms from people in imminent danger of harming themselves or anyone else. In determining whether such danger exists, the court may consider the person’s prior involuntary confinement in a psychiatric hospital (CGS § 29-38c).
The law requires the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) commissioner to verify, by checking with the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DHMAS), that a person seeking a gun credential (such as a gun permit) was not confined in a psychiatric hospital within the preceding 60 months by probate court order, or voluntarily admitted to such a hospital within the preceding six months, for treatment (CGS § 29-38b(a)).  It requires psychiatric hospitals to notify the DHMAS commissioner of anyone voluntarily admitted for psychiatric treatment, except when the treatment is solely alcohol or drug-related. Probate courts must notify DHMAS of involuntary commitment orders (CGS § 17a-499).
The rest of the report provides additional information on the (1) federal prohibition on gun ownership and possession by people with psychiatric disabilities, (2) gun seizure law, and (3) requirement for DHMAS to provide information to the DESPP commissioner to fulfill her obligation under the gun laws.