Mental Disability Policy Reversal
To All Federal Firearms Licensees and Others Concerned:
In the past, ATF took the position that a person adjudicated
mentally incompetent or committed to a mental institution and
who was later unconditionally discharged as competent under
the laws of the State in which he or she was committed, with
all civil rights restored by the State, was no longer subject
to any Federal firearms and explosives disabilities.
Recent court decisions, including the Supreme Court decision
in Dickerson v. New Banner Institute, 103 S.Ct. 986 (1983),
have caused ATF to reconsider its position. The Court stated
that "...Congress made no exception for subsequent curative
events. The past adjudication or committment disqualifies.
Congress obviously felt that such a person, though
unfortunate, was too much of a risk to be allowed [firearms]
privileges." Therefore, the Bureau has determined that the
previous policy can no longer be maintained. Advice given
under the previous policy is no longer valid.
Consequently, the statutory disabilities (or restrictions)
continue to apply to a person who has been committed to a
mental institution by competent authority, or adjudicated as
mentally incompetent or defective, even if that person has
later been found to be competent and his or her rights fully
restored. The affected individual is prohibited by Federal
law from shipping or transporting any firearm or explosive in
interstate or foreign commerce, from receiving any firearm or
explosive which has been shipped or transported in interstate
or foreign commerce, and from possessing any firearm in
commerce or affecting commerce. Moreover, licensees may not
lawfully transfer firearms or explosives to such an individual.
Any person having questions regarding this circular should
refer to it by number, and address all inquiries to the Bureau
of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Office of Compliance
Operations, P.O. Box 189, Washington, DC 20226 (Attn: C:F:F).