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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.

Kansas requires officials to reporting certain records to NICS regarding involuntary commitments. More specifically, whenever a district court orders a person to receive treatment for mental illness or an alcohol or substance abuse problem under certain provisions, the clerk of the court must send a copy of the order to the Kansas bureau of investigation within five days. The Kansas bureau of investigation must then enter the order into NICS and other appropriate databases.3

The 2006 law that imposed this requirement also required every district court to review all files dated on or after July 1, 1998, concerning “mentally ill persons subject to involuntary commitment for care and treatment” and “persons with an alcohol or substance abuse problem subject to involuntary commitment for care and treatment.” If the court ordered treatment pursuant to the relevant provisions, the clerk of the court was required to report the patient to the Kansas bureau of investigation, which was required to immediately cause the person to be entered into the appropriate state and federal databases.4

Whenever a court orders a person involuntarily committed to a state psychiatric hospital to be released, and issues a certificate of restoration to that person, the court must order the clerk of the district court to report the release and certificate of restoration to the Kansas bureau of investigation within five days.5

In 2011, Kansas enacted a law creating a procedure for a person subject to state or federal firearm restrictions to petition courts to restore their firearm access.6 A court that grants a petition for relief must submit documentation to the Kansas bureau of investigation. The Kansas bureau of investigation must then immediately cause such order to be entered into the appropriate state and federal databases.7

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

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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. Kan. Stat. Ann. §§ 59-2966(a) (regarding involuntary commitment of mentally ill persons upon clear and convincing evidence for care and treatment for up to three months) and 59-29b66(a) (regarding commitment of a person with an alcohol or substance abuse problem upon clear and convincing evidence for care and treatment for up to three months). See Kan. Stat. Ann. § 59-2946(e), (f)(1) for the standard for involuntarily committing a mentally ill person. See Kan. Stat. Ann. § 59-29b46(f), (g)(1) for the standard for involuntarily committing a “person with an alcohol or substance abuse problem.”[]
  4. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 75-7c25.[]
  5. Kan. Stat. Ann. §§ 59-2974 and 59-29b74. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 75-7c25(a) reiterates that, after July 1, 2007, all orders of involuntary commitment for care and treatment as specified above and any orders of “termination of discharge” must be immediately forwarded to the Kansas bureau of investigation for entry into the appropriate state and federal databases.[]
  6. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 75-7c26.[]
  7. Id.[]