Federal Court: Involuntary Commitment Not a Disqualifier for 2A Rights

By CTD Blogger published on in General, News

On February 16, 2016, Alton C. Franklin filed suit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. He contended that a prohibition against his ability to acquire or possess firearms because of a brief involuntary commitment in 2002, was unconstitutional.  With a partial summary judgment in his favor, and a re-submission in January of 2017, Mr Franklin prevailed. The law was not struck as unconstitutional, directly. Rather, the Pennsylvania law was ruled to be insufficient to meet the Constitutional requirements of the Federal law.

ATF Form 4473

By Dean Weingarten

From princelaw.files:

This case arises from Defendants’ determination that Mr. Franklin’s less-than-24-hour involuntary stay in a hospital for an involuntary emergency mental health examination pursuant to Section 302 of the Pennsylvania Mental Health Procedures Act (“Section 302 of the MHPA”), 50 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 7302, resulted in a complete prohibition of Mr. Franklin’s ability to ever legally acquire, possess, or use a firearm in his private capacity for the purposes of federal law, namely for the purposes of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4)(“Section 922(g)(4)”). Mr. Franklin challenges Defendants’ position on numerous grounds – on most of which the Court will not now offer an opinion. However, the Court is persuaded that, by its own terms, Section 922(g)(4) does not restrict Mr. Franklin’s ability to possess firearms based on a brief emergency mental health examination pursuant to Section 302 of the MPHA that was justified by only the ex parte decisions of a police officer, an unspecified official in the county administrator’s office, and a single physician.

Mental Health and Guns

Here is the actual order From justia.com:

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER – upon consideration of the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment (ECF Nos. 31 , 36 ) and for the reasons set forth in the Memorandum Opinion accompanying this Order, it is HEREBY ORDERED that:

1. Plaintiff& #039;s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 36 ) is GRANTED only as to the inapplicability of the restrictions of Section 922(g)(4) to Plaintiff. Judgment is entered in Plaintiff’s favor to that extent.

2. In all other regards, the parties 9; cross-motions for summary judgment (ECF Nos. 31 , 36 ) are DENIED AS MOOT at this time.

3. 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4) is not implicated by Plaintiff’s involuntary emergency treatment on September 22, 2002 pursuant to 50 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 7302 and, as it pertains to that event, Plaintiff’s ability to acquire, possess, and use firearms and/or ammunition is unaffected.

4. Defendants, their officers, agents, servants, employee, and all persons in active concert or participation with them who receive actual notice of this Order are ENJOINED from enforcing 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4) against Plaintiff based on his involuntary emergency treatment on September 22, 2002, and as more fully stated in said Memorandum Opinion and Order. Signed by Judge Kim R. Gibson on 12/21/2017.

It makes perfect sense that a enumerated constitutional right, found in the Bill of Rights, may not be taken away from someone merely on the opinion of a physician, a police officer, and an administrative official.  A court proceeding is necessary for due process.

This is a step toward restoring Second Amendment rights and respect for the Constitution and the rule of law for all Americans.

What’s your opinion about Mr. Franklin’s case? Are there cases in which you believe the state should suspend a citizen’s Second Amendment rights, or do you believe “Shall Not be Infringed” means exactly what it says? Share your answers in the comment section.

©2017 by Dean Weingarten

Tags: , ,

Trackback from your site.

The mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, "The Shooter's Log," is to provide information-not opinions-to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (15)

  • Dr. Bob


    Sadly we have moved into a realm of “case by case” based on the a “law that lets the mere “say-so” of casual contacts or those who hate be a deciding factor.


  • Mark


    I don’t know about y’all but I don’t want to be the range and have some dude coming in already wearing hearing protection to keep out the voices he keeps hearing when no one’s around. Just sayin…


  • Bo Wilcox


    I was hurt on the job back in 03 and had to have surgery …after the surgery I didn’t walk so well and couldn’t work and had to stay with my girlfriends parents . Her stepfather was a mean man he kept torturing me telling me if I didn’t do exactly what he said that he would hurt or kill me in my sleep… so with no other options I “Voluntarly” went into a mental health facility… so years later when all my wounds had heeled and I can walk again…. I applied for a gun permit and denied because it said that I had been involuntary committed which I had not… I want to know if I could win my appeal their decision. I live in North Carolina… please let me know what you think. Thanks Bo


  • smapple


    A quandary. Though I do not want the government deciding who is capable of having a weapon, I do want them preventing those who are mentally unstable from having access. SO, how do we do that? It seems to me that the majority of mass killings lately could have been stopped had somebody stepped in and prevented the sick person from accessing firepower. We need to figure out how to go about doing that. Sometimes your mental condition outweighs your personal rights.


  • 70's Ops


    I’m a “shall not be infringed” guy. With the exception of violent, weapon related crimes.
    I dont believe that an old marijuana bust, or any other basically “victimless” crimes should have any effect on your second amendment rights, after your release from custody. Perhaps a provision for chronic repeat offenders, as this speaks to a mental condition, and anyone deemed by the court to be unable to make intelligent decisions for themselves. Simply put, if yer crazy, or violent, or a chronic offender, your 2A rights should be SUSPENDED, until you can petition and prove you deserve them reinstated.
    The fact that its the ONLY right that doesn’t “reset” after your debt to society is paid, smacks of governmental fear. A way to control the masses. A way to deplete the publics ability to respond to threats of a domestic nature. i.e. a rampant tyrannical government.
    Believe me, i realize there ARE people who shouldn’t have guns, but the assumption that all felons are forever, violent miscreants, or to use a more timely word, deplorable is ridiculous. You’re basically saying that the entire system that states that jail or prison “rehabilitates” an offender is wrong. In some cases, I’m sure that’s true. Its the “one bad apple” mentality. The dumbing down of America. One baby drowns in a bucket, now all buckets have a warning label. My wife’s curling iron actually has a giant warning label stating ” do not use in shower, do not stick in eye” WTF!!!! REALLY!!!! Its this attitude, the everyone gets a trophy, no one is a loser, attitude that needs to change.
    But I digress, WE THE PEOPLE were granted CONTROL of this country and its officials. That’s what they’re scared of. That’s why any excuse to diminish the ability to oppose them is held onto very tightly. Remember, those in control work for us. Yeah…..if you believe that, I’ve got a bridge for sale.


  • Ricky Webster


    Pure and simple “SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED UPON”. Just another government attempt to disarm the people. The people will “NEVER” allow this to happen!!!!!!!!


  • Northern_Michigan


    How very frightening or hopefully much ado about nothing. It’s impossible to know all the details, but based on the idea that Mr. Franklin was held less than 24 hours, as him, I would still answer the highlighted question no. He was not involuntary committed, he was held for examination, then released.

    “It makes perfect sense that a enumerated constitutional right, found in the Bill of Rights, may not be taken away from someone merely on the opinion of a physician, a police officer, and an administrative official. A court proceeding is necessary for due process.”

    The above statement is asinine garbage. As responsible gun owners, we can’t have our cake and eat it too. No responsible gun owner will argue that the severely mentally ill should have access to firearms. In our society, physicians do indeed make that decision. Again, not knowing all the details, I am guessing Mr. Franklin was actually cleared by whichever physician in question, and thus was held less than 24 hours. Had he been actually mentally ill and a danger to himself or others, he would have (hopefully) been actually committed and treated accordingly. A physician should indeed make that decision. Physicians are on the line for making a correct diagnosis, to make one incorrectly (especially a mental health diagnosis) puts their license on the line for such things as fraud.

    Adding the burden of a hearing beyond this is ridiculous. No state needs the expense of processing thousands of mentally ill patients through a court just to administratively stamp “no guns for this mentally ill person”. The timeliness of this would only endanger the public and further endanger our second amendment rights by creating a huge legitimate hole in the system designed to allow those of us that deserve our second amendment rights to keep them.

    I am all for our second amendment rights. I am also for “common sense” gun control. There are very few ideas which are actually “common sense” gun control. The idea that the mentally ill should not have access to firearms is one of them.

    This whole case seems like the “system” is working fine (in this one case). Again, if I was Mr. Franklin, I would have simply answered “No” on said question and moved on. However, I suspect that there was additional involvement and perhaps his observational hold was somehow reported. If that is the case, then clearly the reporting piece is broken as NICS should not be receiving information about such holds (especially since they do have the likelihood of being used inappropriately be law enforcement). That SHOULD be fixed so that other folks in Mr. Franklin’s shoes are not forced through undue bureaucracy or litigation to restore their rights.

    The idea that all of our rights must be somehow backed or stamped by administrative action (due process) is a falsehood. States that haven’t lost their mind understand that when a person enters another persons home with ill intent, they have forfeited their right to life. The don’t retain it until “due process” takes it away. This is for the safety and benefit of the citizen whose home was broken into. Similarly, we have (rightly) decided people who are mentally ill have forfeited their second amendment rights. For the public’s safety this is decided by a physician, and should happen nearly instantaneously (similar to the right to life forfeiture). There will be mistakes and those will be handled administratively with due process (in both cases). “Due Process” is not the answer to all problems. Insisting that all of our rights are somehow tied to it would actually hinder other rights (like our right to defend ourselves in our homes).


  • Auggie


    I wonder what the outcome would have been if the state was New Jersey or say Massachusetts


  • NotAdjudicatedNorCommitted


    I tried to post a larger comment about this case, my case, but it won’t let me. It let me post the smaller comment above. So, i’ll simply state this: I sincerely hope my win, however temporary, aids others in a similar situation. I also wish to thank my attorney, Joshua Prince, and the Judges in my case, both the PA Judge, and the Federal one, for a fair push in the Right direction. A.F.


  • NotAdjudicateNorCommitted


    Does this thing work?


Leave a comment

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.

%d bloggers like this: