Saturday, September 17, 2016

Third Circuit Rules Permanent Gun Ban from an Involuntary Commitment is Unconstitutional

In May of 2012,  Clifford Charles Tyler filed a suit to regain his Second Amendment rights, which had been improperly withheld from him when he attempted to buy a firearm. When he attempted to purchase a firearm, he had been denied because he had been involuntarily committed 28 years before. The District Court dismissed the lawsuit on January 29, 2013. Tyler appealed to the Sixth Circuit.  A three judge panel of the Sixth Circuit ruled the provision unconstitutional in December of 2014.

The Obama administration found the case important enough that they asked for, and got, an en banc review.

The entire Sixth Circuit has reheard the case.  On Friday, 15 September, 2016, 10 of the Circuit's 15 judges concurred and upheld the initial ruling.  . From
CINCINNATI (CN) — A person involuntarily committed to a mental-health facility is not permanently barred from owning a gun, a divided en banc Sixth Circuit ruled Thursday.
The Cincinnati-based appeals court overturned a lower court decision and ruled that "prior involuntary commitment is not coextensive with current mental illness," but that "intermediate scrutiny" should be applied on a case-by-case basis.
The en banc decision comes nearly a year after oral arguments in Tyler v. Hillsdale County Sheriff's Department, et al., with 10 of the Sixth Circuit judges concurring with the lead opinion written by Judge Julia Smith Gibbons.
 From the decision(pdf):
The district court dismissed Tyler’s suit for failure to state a claim, reasoning that Heller’s statement regarding “presumptively lawful” prohibitions on the mentally ill foreclosed such claims. The court also observed that § 922(g)(4) would survive intermediate scrutiny. Unlike the district court, we do not understand Heller’s pronouncement about presumptively lawful prohibitions to insulate § 922(g)(4) from constitutional scrutiny nor do we believe that on the record as it currently stands the government has carried its burden to show that § 922(g)(4)’s permanent ban is substantially related to the government’s important interests in reducing crime and preventing suicide. Because Tyler’s complaint states a valid claim under the Second Amendment, we reverse and remand.
This is an important case that shows that Second Amendment rights are to be treated seriously, and a lifetime ban of a fundamental right is an action that is not to be implemented in a frivolous fashion. 

The decision puts a strategy of incremental firearms confiscation at risk.  The thrust of the strategy has been to make more and more groups into prohibited possessors, and more and more types of firearms into contraband.  Eventually the number of "legal" possessors and "legal" firearms becomes so small that it is rendered politically toothless.

But cases like this threaten the plan.  If labeling someone as mentally ill with an involuntary commitment can no longer be relied on to permanently make them a prohibited possessor, increasing the number of people who are prohibited possessors becomes that much harder.

There is a a serious split in the Circuits about this issue.  I expect the Obama administration to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The case is likely to reach the Court after a replacement for Justice Scallia is chosen.

  ©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
Link to Gun Watch

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