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Federal law generally prohibits possession of firearms and ammunition by people who have been found by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority to be a danger to themselves or others, or to lack “the mental capacity to contract or manage [their] own affairs,” as a result of their mental condition or illness.1 Federal law also generally prohibits people from possessing firearms if they have been involuntarily hospitalized or committed to a mental health or substance abuse treatment facility by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority.2

No federal law, however, requires states to report the identities of these individuals when they become ineligible to possess firearms to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database, which the FBI uses to perform background checks prior to firearm transfers. As a result, state record reporting laws are critical to ensuring the accuracy and effectiveness of the background check system.

Arkansas requires a court clerk, upon filing any of the orders specified below, to forward a copy of such order to the Arkansas Crime Information Center.3 The requirement applies to orders:

  • Finding that a defendant lacks “fitness to proceed” because he or she lacks the capacity to understand the proceeding against him or her or to assist effectively in his or her own defense as a result of “mental disease or defect”4
  • Committing a person acquitted of a crime by reason of a mental disease or defect, who continues to be affected by the “mental disease or defect,” to the custody of the director of the Department of Health and Human Services for an examination by a psychiatrist or a licensed psychologist5
  • Detaining a person for treatment for 45 days after determining that a person is a danger to self or others6; or
  • Detaining a person beyond 45 days because he or she continues to be a danger to self or others.7

For general information on the background check process and categories of prohibited purchasers or possessors, see the Arkansas Background Checks section and the section entitled Firearm Prohibitions in Arkansas.

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  1. Federal law, enacted in 1968, still uses archaic and offensive terminology to prohibit firearm access by people who have been “adjudicated as a mental defective.” 18 USC 922(g)(4). Federal regulations define that term to mean:
    (a) A determination by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority that a person, as a result of marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease
    (1) Is a danger to himself or to others; or
    (2) Lacks the mental capacity to contract or manage his own affairs.Federal regulation also expressly clarifies that this firearm prohibition applies to:
    (1) A finding of insanity by a court in a criminal case; and
    (2) Those persons found incompetent to stand trial or found not guilty by reason of lack of mental responsibility pursuant to [specified articles] of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. 27 CFR § 478.11.[]
  2. Federal law generally prohibits firearm access by people who have previously been “committed to a mental institution.” 18 USC 922(g)(4). Federal regulations define this term to mean: “A formal commitment of a person to a mental institution by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority. The term includes a commitment to a mental institution involuntarily. The term includes commitment for mental defectiveness or mental illness. It also includes commitments for other reasons, such as for drug use. The term does not include a person in a mental institution for observation or a voluntary admission to a mental institution.” 27 C.F.R. § 478.11.[]
  3. Ark. Code Ann. § 12-12-218.[]
  4. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-2-310(b)(2)(E), and see Ark. Code Ann. § 5-2-302.[]
  5. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-2-314(b)(2).[]
  6. Ark. Code Ann. § 20-47-214(e).[]
  7. Ark. Code Ann. § 20-47-215. See also Ark. Code Ann. § 12-12 209.[]