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.
A law adopted in Texas in 2009 requires the Department of Public Safety (“Department”) to establish a rule for the submission of information to the FBI for use in NICS. The law requires the clerk of a court to prepare and submit information to the Department within 30 days whenever the court:
- Orders a person to receive inpatient mental health services;
- Acquits a person in a criminal case by reason of insanity or lack of mental responsibility;
- Commits a person determined to have mental retardation for long-term placement in a residential care facility;
- Appoints a guardian of the incapacitated adult individual, based on the determination that the person lacks the mental capacity to manage the person’s affairs;
- Determines a person is incompetent to stand trial; or
- Finds a person is entitled to relief from disabilities.2
The information that must be submitted is:
- The complete name, race, and gender of the person;
- Any known identifying number of the person, including social security number, driver’s license number, or state identification number;
- The person’s date of birth; and
- The information that causes the person to be prohibited from possessing firearms.3
If an order previously reported to the Department is reversed by an appellate court, it is the duty of the clerk of the court to notify the Department of the reversal.4
The law requires the clerk of the court to forward this information to the Department in an electronic format as prescribed by the Department, if practicable.5 The law requires the Department to establish a procedure, by a rule, for submission of this information to NICS.6
This information is “confidential,” and the Department may disseminate this information only to the extent necessary to allow the FBI to collect and maintain a list of persons prohibited from possessing firearms.7 However, the Department must grant access to this information to the person who is the subject of the information.8
The 2009 law also provides a process by which a person who has been discharged from court ordered mental health services may obtain relief from the federal firearms disability,9 and requires the Department to establish a rule for submission of this information to NICS.10
For general information on the background check process and categories of prohibited purchasers or possessors, see the Texas Background Checks section and the section entitled Prohibited Purchasers Generally.
- 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(4).
- Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.0521(a).
- Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.0521(b).
- Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.0521(d).
- Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.0521(c).
- Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.052 (b). See 37 Tex. Admin. Code § 27.141 for the relevant rule.
- Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.052(b), (d).
- Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.052(c).
- Tex. Health & Safety Code § 574.088.
- Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.052(e).