Proposed ATF Rules May Limit Gun Ownership

In addition to the changes that the ATF is proposing in regards to the use of gun trust for NFA items, there is another proposed change which has not received quite as much publicity.  While it may not have received as much attention, this one is possibly even more concerning from an individual gun rights perspective.

Currently under Section 922(g) of the Gun Control Act of 1968, certain individuals are prohibited from receiving, shipping or transporting firearms.  Among other things, this includes individuals who have been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, a fugitive from justice, a person convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence and an individual who has been adjudicated as mentally defective or committed to a mental institution.  The new rule focuses on this last category. The ATF’s amendments are made administratively and do not require any sort of act by Congress in order to implement.  The latest proposed rule change attempts to define “adjudicated as mentally defective” and what is defined as being “committed to a mental institution”.  A concern for gun owners arises out of the definition which the ATF is trying to apply to “committed to a mental institution”.  The term “committed to a mental institution” is not specifically defined in Gun Control Act of 1968 and therefore the ATF has administrative powers to set the definition.

New proposed rules would first allow the term to be applied to individuals who while under the age of 18 had been committed to a mental institution.  Therefore, anyone under the age of 18 who may have been committed to a mental institution would be prohibited from possessing or purchasing a firearm for the rest of their lives.

The second expansion under the new proposed rule is even more shocking; the ATF is proposing that the definition “committed to a mental institution” include involuntary inpatient and OUTPATIENT commitments.  While it is clear from the reading of 922(g) an inpatient commitment would categorize as a prohibition for the purchase or possession of a firearm, the proposed ATF rule changes would allow for the application of this rule to anyone who was involuntarily committed to outpatient services at a mental health facility.

Therefore, the concern is how far this will be applied.  For example, in the Kosciusko County Courts all individuals who file for dissolution and have kids are court ordered to undergo Transparenting Classes at a local mental health facility inWarsaw,Indiana. The Department of Justice may view that as an “involuntary outpatient commitment” and possibly prohibit the possession or purchase of firearms due to the fact that there is a court order on record showing an individual’s commitment to the outpatient classes at a mental institution.

Another possible disconcerting application of this could also be applied to Misdemeanor OWI cases in which most Court’s standard procedure is to order outpatient therapy at a local mental institution in the county.  The concern is that if this rule were to be passed by the ATF these types of court orders for treatment at a mental institution would become prohibitions for the possession and purchase of firearms.

If you are concerned how an upcoming court proceeding may affect your right to possess firearms, please contact us to set up a consultation to see how best to protect those rights.

Turner Valentine, LLP: 574-371-2052