In the first legal ruling of its type, a federal appeals court in Cincinnati on Thursday deemed unconstitutional a federal law that kept a Michigan man who was briefly committed to a mental institution decades ago from owning a gun.
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 Clifford Charles Tyler, a 73-year-old Hillsdale County man.
“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, an appointee of President Reagan, for the panel.
Luke McCarthy, Mr. Tyler’s lawyer, called the ruling “a forceful decision to protect Second Amendment rights,” and said he hoped it had “a significant impact on the jurisprudence in the area of gun-rights.”
According to Adam Winkler, a Second Amendment expert and law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, the ruling could give momentum to the gun-rights movement. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see legal challenges to other parts of the [federal gun] law now,” he said.
Mr. Winkler also said the ruling could prompt Republicans in Congress to move to set up a new “relief from disabilities” program that would allow people to prove they’re fit to own guns.