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.
Nevada requires that a court make a record and transmit the record to the Central Repository for Nevada Records of Criminal History (Central Repository), along with a statement that the record is being transmitted for inclusion in each appropriate NICS database, whenever a court or other trier of fact where applicable: 1) accepts a plea of guilty but mentally ill in a criminal case;3 2) finds a criminal defendant guilty but mentally ill;4 3) accepts a verdict acquitting a criminal defendant by reason of insanity;5 4) finds a criminal defendant incompetent;6 5) issues an order involuntarily admitting a person to a public or private mental health facility;7 or 6) finds that a proposed ward is a person with a mental defect.8 The court must transmit the record to the Central Repository within five business days of the plea or determination.9
The Central Repository, upon receiving any of these records, must take reasonable steps to ensure that the information reported in the record is included in each appropriate NICS database.10 Any record of a person’s mental health included in the Central Repository is confidential, not considered a public record, and may not be used for any purpose other than for inclusion in NICS.11
If a court issues an order involuntarily admitting a person to a public or private mental health facility or to a program of community-based outpatient services, the court must, within five business days, transmit a record of the order to each law enforcement agency of Nevada with which the court has entered into an agreement for such transmission, along with a statement indicating that the record is being transmitted for inclusion in each of Nevada’s appropriate databases of information related to crimes.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.
- Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 174.035(8).
- Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 175.533(3).
- Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 175.539(4).
- Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 178.425(6).
- Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 433A.310(5).
- Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 159.0593(1).
- Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 174.035.
- Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 179A.163(1).
- Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 179A.165(1).
- Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 433A.310(5).