Consumer Information

Firearms Ban for “Committed” Persons is un-Constitutional

United States Constitution

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has determined in of Tyler v. Hillsdale Co. Sheriff’s Dept. that a prohibition on firearms possession for persons who have been “committed to a mental institution” was unconstitutional.

In the decision, the court wrote, “This case presents an important issue of first impression in the federal courts: whether a prohibition on the possession of firearms by a person “who has been committed to a mental institution,” 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4), violates the Second Amendment.”

United States Constitution
In Tyler v. Hillsdale Co. Sheriff’s Dept., the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals said a prohibition on firearms possession for persons who have been “committed to a mental institution” was unconstitutional.

The court examined the Gun Control Act’s categorical prohibition on firearm possession for persons who have been “committed to a mental institution.” The court wrote, “Twenty-eight years ago, Clifford Charles Tyler was involuntarily committed for less than one month after allegedly undergoing an emotionally devastating divorce. Consequently, he can never possess a firearm. Tyler filed suit in federal court, seeking a declaratory judgment that § 922(g)(4) is unconstitutional as applied to him. The district court dismissed Tyler’s suit for failure to state a claim. Because Tyler’s complaint validly states a violation of the Second Amendment, we reverse and remand.” In this case, the ban applied to an individual who had been committed 28 years earlier and had no viable option for seeking restoration of his rights. In its decision, the court wrote, “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.” According to court documents, Clifford Tyler is a 73-year-old man who does not currently suffer from mental illness and has no history of violence, unlawful behavior, or substance abuse. In 1985, when Tyler was 45 years old, his then-wife of 23 years left him for another man, depleted his finances, and filed for divorce.

Understandably, Tyler became distraught and suicidal, and he was involuntarily committed by a Michigan probate court, after his daughters called police for fear of his safety. Less than a month later, Tyler was released from the facility and returned to the workforce for nearly two decades.

A psychologist who evaluated Tyler in 2012 determined the 1985 commitment “appeared to be a brief reactive depressive episode in response to his wife divorcing him.” According to an analysis by NRA-ILA, unlike other federal appellate courts, the Sixth Circuit evaluated Tyler’s claim under strict scrutiny, the highest level of scrutiny in constitutional law. Using this test, the court examines whether the government’s regulation relates to a sufficiently important governmental interest and is sufficiently “tailored” to achieving that interest.

To satisfy strict scrutiny, the government’s interest must be “compelling,” and the regulation must be “narrowly” tailored to achieving it.

The court first concluded that the ban on individuals committed to a mental institution did not have a long pedigree in American law—the court noted that mental institutions were virtually unheard of in America at the time the Second Amendment was adopted.

With regard to the strict scrutiny analysis, the government asserted the interests protected by the prohibition were “protecting the community from crime” and “preventing suicide,” which the court readily recognized as compelling. Thus, the case turned on whether the regulation was narrowly tailored to that end, according to NRA-ILA.

The court found that as applied to Tyler, the law was not narrowly tailored. First, unlike other categorical prohibitions on firearm possession in the Gun Control Act, the commitment prohibition could apply to non-violent, non-criminal individuals, who were prohibited based on conduct that was not under their control.

NRA-ILA also said the court reasoned that Congress itself did not intend for all previously committed people to lose their Second Amendment rights for life, because it created two roads to relief. One is a petition process administered under federal law, and another is federal recognition of certain state relief from disability procedures. In Tyler’s case, however, neither option was available. Congress has defunded the federal relief procedure since 1992, and Michigan has not enacted a state relief procedure that complies with federal law.

Thus, as applied to Tyler, the prohibition for previously committed individuals was “overbroad” and therefore not narrowly tailored.

The Sixth Circuit covers portions of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.

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Comments (32)

  1. you know I don’t much about this legal all I know is at the age of 72 years old I can t even own a gun no am not insane or need have been in a mental institution but when I was 18or19 because a police officer tatic I was send to jail for something I didn’t do I Didn’t even know I had a felony or what it really meant I even purchase a hand gun back in the 80s whn I lived in Arizona with no problems I never got in trouble again never went to jail again were are my rights I live next door to thugs . drug dealers people will do any thing for aq buck they own guns they let every one new years eve or when ever they want but I cannot even purchase one did you say constitutional rights wow thanks for listen to me blow off some steam

  2. To take away a persons right to keep and bear arms because they’ve suffered with depression is unmitigated horse spit. Who’s next? Someone with arthritis, migraines, cancer, acne or what ever! The commie’s and the Nazi’s would have loved it.

  3. I disagree with the court. Looney Tunes should not be able to buy weapons. If you watch the news, there’s lots of them causing violent crimes all over the country.

    If you disagree with me, why don’t you take one in as a roommate and give him/her a gun to protect themselves. Good luck with that!

    1. ss1: as per the article: “According to court documents, Clifford Tyler is a 73-year-old man who does not currently suffer from mental illness and has no history of violence, unlawful behavior, or substance abuse. In 1985, when Tyler was 45 years old, his then-wife of 23 years left him for another man, depleted his finances, and filed for divorce.”

      Your comment shows that you evidently need to read the article again. The man had a brief period of mental instability…..30 years ago!…..and is no longer a threat to anyone.

      This is another isolated case where the law wants to continue to punish a person who is obviously no longer a threat to society. I would have no problem with this man’s owning a firearm, and yes, I disagree with you for good reason: your comment was illogical.

      As for your statement: “I disagree with the court. Looney Tunes should not be able to buy weapons. If you watch the news, there’s lots of them causing violent crimes all over the country.”

      I watch the news for several hours on a daily basis and have not gotten the impression that crazy people with firearms are running wild in the streets. You fail to mention that there are also many sane people who are causing crimes “all over the country,” but you seem to limit those who commit crimes with guns as all being crazy. I challenge you to provide some evidence to back up your very questionable opinion.

    2. Smitty 550: I already had read the article and understand about Tyler. My comment pertains to any and all current and future attempts to extend this ruling to other cases. Look at the generalized title to this article. There’s an attempt right there!!

      Of course all types of people commit crimes, and the worst ones are committed by sociopaths, who may not be getting treatment, but psychologists will tell you they are mentally ill.

      Oh sure, you want 2 examples of people under mental health care!! Try Sandy Hook and Columbine. Thanks for teeing that one up for me.

    3. (1) What do you mean that your comment applied to extending the ruling to “other cases”? Sorry, but I got lost along the tortuous route of your comment.

      (2) Not all psychologists are in agreement that sociopathy (the modern euphemism for what was formerly called “psychopathy”) is a mental disease.

      (3) I didn’t ask you to provide examples of the types of persons who committed the Sandy Hook and Columbine massacres. They were obviously mentally ill and—at least for Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris—had been under treatment. My point was that not all murderers have been under treatment for mental illness, and that perfectly sane people can also kill. I got it that you feel otherwise.

    4. Smitty 550:

      (1) Apparently you don’t know how the legal profession works, using prior cases to argue on current ones. Tyler’s case should NOT be used by anyone in the legal profession, in government, in the press, etc., etc. to help other Looney Tunes buy guns. That’s what I meant, and I don’t give a crap if YOU don’t understand it.

      (2) What part of “Of course all types of people commit crimes” don’t you understand?…….Regarding your link, any of us can find an opinion on the internet to prove our own points. 100 Psychologists will not all agree on the same issue. I’m not here to write a thesis. I’m here to say what I want to, when I want to.

      (3) Duh! Just because perfectly sane people can also kill (a brilliant point from you I must say), my point is we don’t need to let mentally ill people have guns. If you had a psychopathic relative, or a schizophrenic relative, would you take them hunting? Would you take them to the shooting range? I would NOT. You probably wouldn’t either unless you’re clueless, but you’ll probably write a reply to further spin your “tortuous” logic, because you don’t want to lose the argument.

    5. I expected your reply to be at least readable from the standpoint of being understandable, but I failed on both points. Sorry about that!

      I am elated! FINALLY, you said what you meant in your first paragraph:

      “Apparently you don’t know how the legal profession works, using prior cases to argue on current ones. Tyler’s case should NOT be used by anyone in the legal profession, in government, in the press, etc., etc. to help other Looney Tunes buy guns. That’s what I meant, and I don’t give a crap if YOU don’t understand it.”

      Take it easy, partner; you sound like you are in a high risk group for having a heart attack. No, I don’t understand your “logic,” and I know you “don’t give a crap,” that I don’t understand twisted logic, regardless of the source (frankly, I never have….it’s one of my weaknesses), but it’s okay. It’s okay. You don’t have to “give a crap” if you don’t want to. BTW, I don’t think I would want to take an dude as angry as you to a gun range, either. After all, we ALL know that anger is a “mental illness.” Er….don’t we?

      So…do I understand that you are saying that no attorney has the right under the First Amendment to argue any case he wants as precedent—unless overruled by a judge—to “help other Looney-Tunes buy guns?”
      Are you saying that the argument should never make to court or even be discussed in the media? Did I understand this correctly? Now, calm down…I’m just trying to wrap my head around your statement.

      I didn’t post the psychologist link to “prove my point.” It looked like a good article that might have been educational since it gave opinions on both sides. It could have expanded your horizons, but you obviously don’t value opinions other than your own, and that’s also okay.

      Also, I never argued that “mentally people should have guns.” The only point I have been trying to make is that people with ultra-weak ancient histories of having “mental illness” such as Mr. Tyler should have the right to carry, unless they have been proven to be a danger to themselves or to Society (didn’t I say this before?) in a court of law. Obviously, you don’t agree; let’s leave it at that, since it appears that we will never be on the same page…

    6. Oh not so fast buddy boy. OF COURSE you want to “leave it at that, since it appears that we will never be on the same page”……….AFTER GETTING IN SOME DIGS which I was expecting anyway. But now it’s my turn.

      Well we agree on something! I wouldn’t want to take you to the gun range either, and neither would your ex-wife, or maybe I should say wives. Hmmm, tell me more about what happened in the 1970’s. I’m getting more and more curious about you.

      So now I have an anger problem? And you, maybe passive-aggressive? Napoleon complex? Maybe just plain bull headed?……..Well honestly I can’t even put a label on your style of arguing, and all your re-phrasing of other people’s posts.

      Here’s the bottom line for you and all others reading this article. When we go to the gun shop to buy a gun, and fill out the federal paperwork, there is a question we must answer about mental illness and about being committed. I’M GLAD IT’S THERE. I HOPE IT STAYS THERE. AND I HOPE IT GETS BEEFED AND VERIFIED UP BIGTIME.

    7. Were any of those involved in the shootings at Columbine or Sandy Hook legal to own firearms of any kind, much less the bombs constructed by Klebold and Harris? I believe all were minors.

      The Sandy Hook mother had made repeated attempts to have her son confined for treatment. All were denied. She was afraid of him with good reason and the bureaucrats decided otherwise.

      You want “mental illness” described to your personal standard and, appropriately, the courts sometimes find otherwise.


    8. Bill K:

      The Columbine kids were on Prozac and therefore mental illness was involved. If anyone was a “minor”, that has nothing to do with the debate that me and the other guy were having.

      Regardless of who interjects whatever on this forum, I stand by my opinion that many mentally ill people commit crimes because their mental illness got out of control. I have a job and I can’t waste my time giving proof when we are SURROUNDED by 1000’s of crime stories on local and national news. We can pick and choose which ones had mental illness involved.

      I’m glad the questions are on the federal forms. I’m glad I can answer them all truthfully and buy a gun.

    9. Here’s how the law works: unless you are either the plaintiff or the defendant – or the counsel for one of those two – you don’t get a voice. And, since you can’t distinguish between an ongoing trauma and a past difficulty, it’s probably better for all concerned that you DON’T get a voice.

    10. Prozac = active kid the teachers don’t want to deal with.

      Don’t go there … you are ill-informed.

    11. And Bill, YOU have proven that YOU are ill-informed with the sentence “Prozac = active kid the teachers don’t want to deal with.”. That is totally NOT what Prozac is used for, and you have proven with one statement that you don’t have much credibility on mental health topics.

      But honestly, I’m not here to defend my point against every person who shows up on this thread from now until eternity. I never really had a dog in this fight since I’m on CTD for gun technology topics, but just started my first comment with a rather blunt statement and then dealt with some replies I didn’t like.

      Looking back on this whole topic, I should have realized that in the blogosphere where this topic was written, any stance taken regarding limiting someone’s ability to buy a gun will be met with lots of resistance.

      I do like my song though. That used to scare me when I was a kid 🙂

    12. You are good at trolling, you clearly just want to argue. You know full well no one advocates for handing weapons of any type to a person who is of danger to themselves and others. Legal issues such as this are not as simplistic as your point suggests.

      Continued arguing cements the fact you are either a troll, an anti-firearm person, or both.

    13. Hey Gearhead, how do YOU know what I know full well? I didn’t create the article, I didn’t create the title to the article, and I’m not so sure in reading other’s comments if you can make your assumption about what everyone advocates. Although I did admire T Hodges’ January 14, 2015 at 3:31 pm comments.

      But I will never back down from someone like you. You know where you can stick your comments and assumptions about me Gearhead.

    14. With your paranoid attitude, sure wouldn’t trust you with one.
      Think about it. He was once depressed but now is not. What is your excuse?

  4. Thank goodness this appeal was decided by a panel of judges who were confirmed before Obamao. Otherwise, the decision could easily have gone the other way.

  5. FINALLY an appeals court that showed MUCH wisdom and has returned the right to bear arms to Tyler, an American citizen – this should have happened a long time ago – regardless, it’s good to see

  6. “Revocation of free speech rights.” How very PATRIOTIC and CONSTITUTIONAL of you.

    Why is this sort of completely unthinking reply not surprising here?

  7. “Understandably, Tyler became distraught and suicidal…”

    Really? Becoming suicidal is ‘understandable’ in Tyler’s or any situation? That’s just shy of saying suicide is to be excused in ‘some’ situations. Slippery slopes and all that to say the least.

    Mental illness comes in all shades, but it’s still mental illness. And to think that the NRA once advocated safety as its most cherished “principles”.

    And the insanity continues…

    1. Really? You read that entire article describing the circumstances of this case and that’s what you came up with?


      Perhaps we should consider lifetime revocation of free-speech rights for some blog posts.

    2. Sorry, Tyranny. My reply to your non-reply should have gone here.

      “Revocation of free speech rights.” How very PATRIOTIC and CONSTITUTIONAL of you.

      Why is this sort of completely unthinking reply not surprising here?

    3. Hodges: So you are so shortsighted that you do not see the irony of your own indignation?

      My reply was not “unthinking” at all but was simply an application of your OWN point of view regarding the Second Amendment to the First Amendment.

      I’m sure you don’t understand what I mean so let me put it in plain English for you: if you think that it’s okay to ban someone for life from owning firearms simply because they had one mental health episode decades ago, then you should also be fine with denying someone else their free-speech rights for a careless logical fallacy like you yourself have committed.

      Then again, it is clear from your original post that logic is not your strong suit. But perhaps you’re simply one of those “guns for me but not for thee” elitists.

      In any case, I just thank God you’re not a judge.


    4. TOEM, you hit the nail on the head. I am certain that if Mr. Hodges had had his right to own a firearm removed for some very minor “infraction” that was labeled “mental illness,” a few decades prior, and in the same context as Mr. Tyler experienced, he would have stepped up to the plate in the same manner as did Mr. Tyler.

      We simply cannot blithely toss around the term, “mental illness” and make it apply as a “one size fits all” answer to crime prevention. If the legal system cannot bend so that justice is served, then it is a bad legal system. Unless he has been proven to be a danger to himself or to Society at this time, Mr. Tyler should be allowed to enjoy access to firearms to the same degree as the rest of us “sane” people.

    5. Depending on your point of view, either grieving the loss of a loved one (that’s what divorce is) is healthy or a sign of deeper psychological disorders. Psychiatry is not a “fixed” science … it is in a perpetual state of flux.

      Mr. Tyler is long past due to have his Second Amendment rights restored. I’m sorry it took this long (not a good sign for others) and hinged on a nuance of the law (rather than whether he was now fit to receive them back) but I am still pleased that they have been restored to him even if such restoration is clearly decades overdue.

      I have no doubt that, having paid such a price for them, he will be a good steward of them.

    6. I went through a divorce in the late 1970s. It was the worst time in my life, and even though I was not suicidal, I can see why some people in my situation who are more emotionally vulnerable might have been suicidal on one end of the spectrum, and certainly suffer some type of depression on the other end. I felt depressed during that time; therefore, should I have been adjudged to be “mentally ill,” and if so, should I be therefore stripped of my right to now own a nice .222 Remington 40XB-BR rifle (now up for sale, BTW).

      Do those who have suffered from being depressed about one setback or another during his/her lifetime be adjudged as having been “mentally ill?” The court has obviously made this argument, but it can also be logically counter-argued that, e.g., a person’s long-term grieving over a lost loved one is a type of depression that surely must fit into some type of “mental illness” category that does NOT require either medication, outpatient treatment or hospitalization, and therefore NOT subject to that person’s EVER being allowed to own a firearm—at least according to the restrictive terms of the original law mentioned in the article.

      We have tended to label any type of behavior that varies even slightly from the “norm” (whatever that is has never really been defined) as surely being in the category of “mentally ill.” Quirky people on Park Avenue are let off as being merely “eccentric,” if they have enough money and high social standing, while some poor slob who merely wants to quietly live alone in a cabin in the woods is someone to be put on some “watch list” by law enforcement.

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