See our Mental Health Reporting policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.
Federal law prohibits possession of a firearm or ammunition by any person who has been “adjudicated as a mental defective” or involuntarily “committed to any mental institution.”1 No federal law, however, requires states to report the identities of these individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database, which the FBI uses to perform background checks prior to firearm transfers.
Maine requires courts to transmit to the Department of Public Safety, State Bureau of Identification an abstract of any order for involuntary commitment issued by the court. The abstract must include:
- The person’s name, date of birth and gender;
- The court’s ruling that the person has been involuntarily committed by a court after a hearing because the person was found to present a “likelihood of serious harm” (as Maine law defines the phrase); and
- A notation that the person has been notified by the court about the firearm prohibition.2
The Bureau also must report to NICS as soon as it receives any abstract from a court finding that a person has been:
- Committed involuntarily to a hospital pursuant to an order of the District Court after a hearing;
- Found not criminally responsible by reason of insanity with respect to a criminal charge; or
- Found not competent to stand trial with respect to a criminal charge.3
The abstract is confidential and not a public record; however, a copy of the abstract may also be provided by the Bureau to a criminal justice agency for legitimate law enforcement purposes or to an issuing authority for the purpose of processing concealed handgun permit applications.4
Note that these reporting requirements only apply if the person was judicially committed after a hearing (and is therefore subject to the Maine prohibition against firearm possession)5. Maine does not require the reporting of individuals who have been committed through emergency procedures, but who have not yet been granted a hearing.6
Restoration of Firearm Rights for the Mentally Ill: Maine law allows a person subject to the federal prohibition against firearm possession as a result of being committed pursuant to Maine’s emergency procedures (but who is not subject to the Maine prohibition against firearm possession by persons judicially committed after a hearing) to, after the expiration of five years from the date of final discharge, apply to the Commissioner of Public Safety for relief from the disability.7 The burden of proof is on the applicant to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that the circumstances that led to the involuntary commitment have changed, that the applicant is not likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety, and that granting the application for relief will not be contrary to the public interest.8
In addition, in 2019 Maine established a procedure by which firearm restrictions can be imposed upon a person taken into protective custody. Under this law, when an individual is taken into protective custody, a medical practitioner shall assess whether the individual presents “a likelihood of foreseeable harm.”9 That assessment is then provided to law enforcement, and, if endorsed by a judge, results in a temporary restriction that prevents the individual from possessing or acquiring a firearm.10 A judicial hearing on the restriction must be held within 14 days, and will terminate unless the court finds “clear and convincing evidence to continue or extend the” restrictions.11).
For general information on the background check process and categories of prohibited purchasers or possessors, see the Maine Background Checks section and the section entitled Maine Prohibited Purchasers Generally.
Other duties of mental health professionals: Mental health professionals must notify law enforcement if he or she has reason to believe a person committed to a mental institution has access to firearms12. Additionally, mental health facilities, upon discharge of a patient, are required to make inquiries and documentation of those inquiries into access by the patient to firearms and to notify the patient, the patient’s family and any other caregivers that possession, ownership or control of a firearm by the person to be discharged is prohibited by Maine law13.
- 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(4).
- Me. Stat., 34-B, § 3864(12).
- Me. Stat., 25 § 1541(3)(C).
- Me. Stat., 34-B, § 3864(12); Me. Stat., 25 § 1541(3)(C).
- See Me. Stat., 15, § 393(4-A).
- Me. Stat., 15 § 393(4-A). The application must be accompanied by a report from an independent licensed psychologist or psychiatrist. The Commissioner must notify, and request relevant information from, local law enforcement. Id.
- Id. According to a Maine government website, Maine’s process under this statute was disapproved by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, in letter of December 28, 2009, stating that Maine’s relief process will not end the federal prohibition from firearms possession. See Office of Adult Mental Health Services, Maine Dept. of Health and Human Services, Firearms and Psychiatric Hospitalization Laws Applicable in Maine (March 10, 2010), at https://maine.gov/dhhs/mh/rights-legal/firearms-laws.shtml.
- 34-B MSRA § 3862-A(2).
- Id. § 3862-A(3-5).
- (Id. § 3862-A(6
- Me. Stat., 34-B § 1207(8).
- Me. Stat., 34-B § 3871(7).