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.
In Connecticut, the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) must report to the NICS Denied Persons File the name, date of birth and physical description of any person prohibited from possessing a firearm, pursuant to federal law.3 Connecticut requires DESPP, the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) and the state Judicial Department to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the FBI for the purpose of implementing NICS.4.
The Commissioner of DESPP is required to verify that a person who seeks a permit to sell at retail a pistol or revolver, a permit to carry a pistol or revolver, an eligibility certificate for a pistol or revolver, a certificate of possession for an assault weapon or a long gun eligibility certificate has not been confined in a hospital for persons with psychiatric disabilities within the preceding 60 months by order of a probate court, or has not been voluntarily admitted to a hospital for persons with psychiatric disabilities within the preceding six months for care and treatment (see below for more on voluntary admissions), by inquiring with DMHAS to receive a report limited to the commitment or admission status of the person.5
The Commissioner of DMHAS must maintain information on commitment orders by a probate court, as well as voluntary admissions, and provide such information to the Commissioner of DESPP in fulfillment of his or her obligations under Connecticut’s gun laws.6
In 2011, Connecticut enacted a law establishing a procedure for an individual prohibited from possessing firearms under federal law for mental health reasons to petition for relief from the federal prohibition. If the petition is granted, the Commissioner of DESPP must coordinate the removal or cancellation of the record in NICS, and notify the U.S. Attorney General that the basis of the record no longer applies.7
For general information on the background check process and categories of prohibited purchasers or possessors, see the Background Checks in Connecticut and Prohibited Purchasers Generally in Connecticut sections.
Reporting Voluntary Admissions to a Psychiatric Hospital
As of October 1, 2013, DMHAS must maintain information on voluntary admissions, and make that information available to the Commissioner of DESPP to carry out his or her obligations pertaining to gun credentials.8
The Commissioner of DESPP must verify from DMHAS that a person applying for a gun credential was not subject to such a voluntary admission, and DMHAS must report such information to DESPP. If the Commissioner determines that an applicant is subject to voluntary admission, the Commissioner must report the status of the person’s application to DMHAS.9
The Commissioner of DMHAS must obtain from DESPP the status of any such applications for anyone who has been voluntarily admitted. DMHAS must advise the psychiatric hospital to which a person has been voluntarily admitted of the status of a gun application, as reported by DESPP. Finally, the DMHAS Commissioner and the hospital must maintain as confidential any such information they receive on the status of permit applications.10
Connecticut law requires psychiatric hospitals, without delay, to notify the Commissioner of DMHAS when a person is voluntarily admitted to the hospital for care and treatment of a psychiatric disability, other than admission solely for alcohol or drug treatment.11 The hospital must at least provide the person’s name, address, gender, date of birth, and date of admission. The Commissioner of DMHAS must maintain such identifying information on all voluntary admissions occurring on and after October 1, 2013.12
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- 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.
- 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.
- Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-36l(d)(2).
- Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-38b(a).
- Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-500(b).
- Conn. Gen. Stat. § 45a-100.
- Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-500(b).
- Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-500(b), (c).
- Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-500(c)(3), (4).
- Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-506a.