We are extremely proud to announce that today Chief Counsel Joshua Prince of the Firearms Industry Consulting Group was successful in having Federal District Court Judge Jeffrey Schmehl of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania rule that an involuntary commitment under Section 302 of Pennsylvania’s Mental Health and Procedures Act (“MHPA”) is insufficient to trigger a federal firearms and ammunition disability under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4).
For those unaware, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4) provides
It shall be unlawful for any person–
(4) who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution;
to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce, or possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition; or to receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.
Section 302 of the MHPA permits a physician to involuntarily commit an individual in the absence of any form of due process (i.e. the individual is not provided an attorney, the ability to confront or present witnesses, the ability to challenge or submit evidence, or provided any other requisites of due process).
As a result of a single, isolated 302 commitment, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives took the position that Mr. Wilborn was federally prohibited from possessing and purchasing firearms and ammunition. As a result, he brought a challenge in federal court challenging, inter alia, whether a 302 commitment was sufficient to trigger a prohibition under Section 922(g)(4) and if so, argued that it would be unconstitutional due to the lack of due process afforded. As our viewers are aware, Attorney Prince has previously won a similar statutory challenge and two Second Amendment as-applied challenges to mental health commitments.
Judge Schmehl in reviewing whether Mr. Wilbron was “adjudicated as a mental defective” found that the
An ‘adjudicat[ion] as a mental defective’ under Section 922(g)(4) requires
something more than two lay persons and a physician acting without any
adversarial proceeding, without the opportunity to present any evidence by
the party subject to the mental health examination, and without the
involvement of any judicial or quasi-judicial decision-maker or processes.
Judge Schmehl then turned to whether Mr. Wilborn was “committed to a mental institution” and in finding that he was not committed to a mental institution, held that a prohibition under Section 922(g)(4) presupposes a formal commitment decision by a “court, board, commission, or other lawful authority,” which is not provided for by Section 302.
In concluding the decision, Judge Schmehl held
Section 302 of the MHPA does not meet 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4)’s permanent restriction on an individual’s ability to acquire, possess, or use a firearm. While Section 302 of the MHPA may be enough to justify an involuntary examination and treatment, the nature of the its non-adversarial ex parte procedure without notice, or opportunity to present evidence, does not constitute an “adjudication” under Section 922(g)(4); nor does Section 302’s 120-hour maximum “involuntary emergency examination and treatment” constitute a “commitment to a mental institution” under Section 922(g)(4).
Please join us in congratulating Attorney Prince for this monumental victory!
If you or someone you know has been involuntarily committed and is now prohibited from purchasing and possessing firearms and ammunition, contact Firearms Industry Consulting Group today to discuss YOUR rights and legal options.
Firearms Industry Consulting Group® (FICG®) is a registered trademark and division of Civil Rights Defense Firm, P.C., with rights and permissions granted to Prince Law Offices, P.C. to use in this article.