In a first of its kind ruling, a three-judge panel of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the federal ban on gun ownership for anyone who has been “adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution” violated the Second Amendment rights of petitioner Clifford Charles Tyler. In other words, Mr. Tyler’s prior institutionalization doesn’t prevent his gun ownership.
“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,” wrote Judge Danny Boggs for the panel. The decision is the first by a federal appeals court to deem unconstitutional a federal gun law since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2008 ruling, called D.C. v. Heller. The Heller ruling, in which the court struck down the Washington, D.C., ban on firearms ownership, represented the Supreme Court’s first foray in decades into the scope of the Second Amendment.
New Jersey residents in general, and Burlington County residents in particular may be effected by the ruling if other courts follow suit in invalidating that provision of the federal gun law, or invalidating other portions of current federal gun laws.