Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Want Your Name in a Law Review Article?

I am trying to find the first year that different states prohibited persons who are mentally ill from possessing a firearm.  While the Gun Control Act of 1968 made it illegal to "sell or dispose of" a firearm or ammunition to anyone that the transferrer believers "has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution" or for such a person to possess firearms or ammunition, state laws regulating firearms possession by the mentally ill are surprisingly recent and often not present.  For example, Idaho Code 18-3302 prohibits issuing a concealed carry license to anyone who:
f)  Is currently suffering or has been adjudicated as follows, based on substantial evidence:(i)   Lacking mental capacity as defined in section 18-210, Idaho Code;(ii)  Mentally ill as defined in section 66-317, Idaho Code;(iii) Gravely disabled as defined in section 66-317, Idaho Code; or(iv)  An incapacitated person as defined in section 15-5-101(a), Idaho Code.
I can't find any state law that specifically prohibits such persons from possession of a firearm at home, or for that matter, while openly carrying.  My first spot check of laws in several states suggests that many states either restrict firearms disability for the mentally ill and retarded just to handguns, or only for carry licenses.  Even states that do have such laws seem to have adopted them surprisingly recently: 1957 for California; 1966 for New Jersey; 1968 for Illinois -- although 1932 for the District of Columbia.  My guess is that most of these first mental illness disability laws are associated with deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill.

For this upcoming University of Connecticut law review article, I am trying to determine when the first state laws are passed that disable the mentally ill or retarded from possession of firearms.  That means first of all finding out which states have such firearms disability laws today, and then trying to hunt back through the statutory history.  As I said: not all states have them.

This table from Psychiatry Online lists state laws regulating mental illness, alcoholism, and drug addiction that prohibit firearms possession by those suffering from these.  However, the table is somewhat misleading; it includes many examples like Idaho Code 18-3302, which are only prohibitions on issuance of licenses.

Would like your name in the acknowledgements for a law review article?  I need people to grab a few states each (maybe even states in which you live), and determine which of the listed statutes actually prohibit firearms possession, as distinguished from firearms carrying outside one's home or land.  I need to know:

1. If any of the specified statutes completely prohibit possession by the mentally ill or retarded.

2. Which statutes apply in this case.

3. If a statute only prohibits issuance of a carry license, which statute that is.

4. Ideally, if you can find the first year that this statute took effect.


  1. I could maybe do this for Illinois.

    This would be my method:

    1) Search the current statutes for the relevant current law. I believe the statutes include when the law was enacted, and possibly the relevant bill number.

    2) Examine the records of the Illinois legislature for that date, or for that bill. If the bill amended or replaced an existing statute, that information would be in the bill.

    3) That information should lead to the legislative action which created the preceding statute.

    4) Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the legislation which created the first law is found.

    Do you think this would work?

    I believe Northwestern University's library has a complete set of the proceedings. The library is near me and open to the public (by day).

    Also, Northwestern may have old versions of Illinois statutes. (Those may be at the Law School, which is downtown.)

  2. Thank you! Illinois appears to have passed a state license requirement in August, 1967 that prohibited "mental patients confined to institutions within the previous five years and the mentally retarded." [Stop, Frisk Bill Vetoed By Kerner, Rockford Register-Republic, Aug. 4, 1967, B1]

  3. This is Florida's


    Florida Senate (FS) 790.065 Section 4, subsection (a)4.

    Also found this:
    In 2006, the Florida Legislature passed HB 151, which required Clerks for the first time to submit to FDLE records of persons who have adjudications of mental defectiveness or commitments to mental institutions, within 1 month after the rendition of the adjudication or commitment. This bill also required FDLE to create and maintain a database of persons who are disqualified from purchasing a firearm as a result of being adjudicated mentally defective or committed to a mental institution. The Mental Competency (MECOM) database was established in February 2007 and is accessed as a part of the screening of potential firearm purchasers in Florida and by the FBI National Instant Check System. It is also used by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in the evaluation of persons who are applying for concealed weapon permits.
    In 2013, the Florida Legislature passed House Bill (HB) 1355 that took effect on July 1, 2013. It provides conditions under which an individual who has been allowed to transfer to voluntary status in lieu of court-ordered involuntary commitment after being admitted for involuntary examination at a Baker Act receiving facility and is certified by a physician to be of imminent danger, may be prohibited from purchasing firearms or retaining or applying for a concealed weapon or firearms license. This bill amended FS 790.065(2)(a)4.c.