Monumental Decision from the Middle District Court of Pennsylvania Regarding Mental Health Commitments and the Second Amendment

Today, Judge John E. Jones, III. of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania held in Keyes, et al. v. Loretta Lynch, et al. that an individual, who was involuntarily committed on a single-isolated occasion, can successfully challenge a prohibition under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4).

In this case, both Mr. Keyes and Mr. Yox challenged, inter alia, whether 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4) violated their Second Amendment rights, as-applied to their specific factual scenarios. Unfortunately, although Mr. Keyes and Mr. Yox’s factual backgrounds were extremely similar, the reason Mr. Keyes was denied the same outcome as Mr. Yox was due to the PA Superior Court’s previous incorrect analysis in In re Keyes, which Judge Jones felt precluded him from addressing Mr. Keyes’ Second Amendment as-applied challenge.

In addressing Mr. Yox’s challenge, the court declared:

Notably, Defendants hardly mention at all in their briefing, much less challenge, the specific facts of Mr. Yox’ case. Defendants reference Mr. Yox’s possession and use of firearms as a member of the military and as a correctional officer only to argue that there is no legal support for the position that his Second Amendment right can be restored “merely by virtue of his employment history.” (Doc. 46, p. 4). That this dismissive treatment of Mr. Yox’s public service [as] ungracious is clear. But more importantly, Defendants avoid addressing the clear irony of Mr. Yox’s situation. It requires a suspension of logic to believe that Mr. Yox is mentally stable enough to possess and use various types of firearms in his professional capacity, including putting his life on the line for his country while on active military duty, but is not mentally stable enough to possess a firearm for self protection in his home.

The court then went on to declare:

Indeed, Mr. Yox provides the perfect test case to challenge § 922(g)(4), as the illogical contradiction of being able to possess firearms in his professional capacities but not being able to possess a firearm for protection in his own home puts in relief a factual scenario where an as-applied Second Amendment challenge to this statute may succeed.

Indeed, if Mr. Yox were not to succeed on his as-applied challenge, we cannot imagine that there exists any person who could.

I must admit that it is extremely refreshing to see Judge Jones acknowledge that those who “are mentally ill” is a distinct and separate category from those who had an single-isolated mental health commitment over a decade ago. I believe we will see a number of federal challenges, some already pending in Pennsylvania, in relation to whether mental health commitments can strip an individual of a constitutional right, especially under Section 302 of the Mental Health and Procedures Act, as it does not provide any form of due process.

8 thoughts on “Monumental Decision from the Middle District Court of Pennsylvania Regarding Mental Health Commitments and the Second Amendment

  1. A most refreshing bit of news that may yet give one to believe the constitution is still being used to the rule of law. Thanks for sharing this.


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