On January 13, 2012, the First Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals ruled in United States v. Rehlander that the mentally ill should be able to own guns until there is a hearing “declaring them unfit.” The court stated that the right to bear arms cannot be revoked by the government without due process. The 14th Amendment, called the Due Process Clause, means that the government must follow fair procedures before taking away a constitutional right.
In March 2007 and in April of 2007, Nathan Rehlander was involuntarily hospitalized under Maine’s “emergency procedure” for “suicidal impulses.” He was later discharged via court order stating that Rehlander needed treatment, but posed no risk of serious harm. In December 2008, during a response from an assault complaint, Rehlander was found in possession of a 9mm pistol. Under Maine law, Rehlander’s involuntary commitment to a psychiatric hospital meant that his right to own a firearm had been stripped away. He was indicted on the charge of possession of the firearm in September 2009. He pled guilty to the charge, but has since appealed the court’s decision.
The appellate court found that because there was no follow up from Rehlander’s hospitalization deeming him “mentally unfit,” there were no procedures in place to restore Rehlander’s rights to own a gun. “Thus, Maine treats its temporary hospitalization procedures as insufficient to nullify the right to possess guns.”