Guns and Mental Health – What Are the Rules?

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If you have mental health problems but want to protect yourself, you should know the laws about mental health and firearms. Laws can vary from state to state, so check those out for more detailed information. 

Does your mental health issue impact your right to own and bear arms? With more than 200 mental diagnoses in the books, we can’t go through all of them, but we will go through some of the more common ones.

Can You Own a Gun if You Have Mental Health Issues

The federal law states that you can not sell or give a firearm to someone who has either been in a mental institution or has been declared a mental defective by the criminal justice system.

If you have been in a mental institution or declared mentally incompetent, it’s not the end of the world. If that declaration by the criminal justice system is erased, you are no longer required to treat the mental health issue, or a hearing called and the ruling overturned, you may own a firearm.

Can You Own a Firearm with PTSD

PTSD is a complicated mental health issue that arises from traumatic situations and events. PTSD has a range of symptoms from fear and anxiety to irritability and self-destructive tendencies. It affects each person differently.

We as a society have moved away from the stigma that those with PTSD have a hair-trigger temper and anything will set them off.

So, will PTSD stop me from buying a gun, you ask? It depends, is the answer I can give you. If your PTSD is particularly severe or you’re prone to violent flashbacks, then yes, your PTSD can prevent you from owning a gun.

If you are a veteran or planning to go into the military, the VA will give you a PTSD percentage rating when you return to civilian life. Those with a percentage of 70 or lower generally lead an everyday life with all the rights that entail. If a veteran has a percentage rating of 100, then they usually need constant medical care. They have severe hallucinations and are prone to hurting themselves and others. They are not allowed to own a firearm.

Can You Own a Firearm with Depression

Depression is another issue that might arise if you want to own a gun. 7.1% of adult Americans ages 18 and over have some type of major depressive disorder.

There’s no one size fits all, so it depends on how your depression manifests itself. As long as you comply with federal and local laws and have a milder form of depression relieved by medication, owning a gun should not be a problem.

Those with a history of suicide attempts or violent outbursts should not own a firearm.

What Mental Health Problems Prohibit You From Owning a Firearm

In the federal court system, a specific type of mental health disorder cannot prohibit you from owning a gun. There are no federal laws that say that you can’t own a gun if you have this particular mental health problem.

The only ways to be legally prohibited from possessing a firearm is:

  • You’ve been involuntarily committed to a mental institution 
  • The mental institution has kept you for over 72 hours
  • A judge or government body has judged you to be mentally incompetent

So, barring that, it is up to the individual to decide whether or not they should own a firearm.

Can You Own a Gun if You’ve Been Convicted of a Crime?

This one is a little more black and white. If you’ve been convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor, then no, you cannot legally own a gun.

According to federal law, you cannot own a gun if you’ve been subjected to a domestic violence restraining order.

It’s a strange country we live in. You can get your gun rights restored if your criminal history gets deleted. Some states even have time limits to own a firearm after a certain number of years after the conviction, but the federal government can still prohibit you.

Can You Own a Firearm with a DUI

If you have been convicted of a felony DUI then no, you cannot own a firearm.

Getting a DUI rarely results in being prohibited from owning a gun, but if you get too many DUIs, then yes, the government can take away your right to bear arms.

This varies from state to state, but in Arkansas, if you receive four or more DUIs within five years, it upgrades to a felony charge that removes your gun rights.

Can You Own a Firearm with a Domestic Violence Charge

No. A domestic violence charge or even a domestic violence restraining order will make it unlawful to own a firearm. 

It does not matter whether it’s a misdemeanor or a felony. The same rules apply to both. The only way to possibly get that right back is to have your records expunged, but even then, it’s not a guarantee.

Can You own a Firearm with a Misdemeanor?

Most misdemeanor charges won’t prohibit you from owning a gun, except for domestic violence charges.

But be careful as too many misdemeanors can result in your right to own and bear arms taken away. The number of misdemeanors to upgrade to a felony charge differs from state to state, so check your local laws.

Wrapping it Up

Owning a gun is a complex issue, one that has been talked about for years. Gun laws will stay a divisive topic for many more. Some things are black and white, while others are simply shades of grey. 

What are the rules for owning a firearm with mental health issues? You might want to talk to your therapist or a mental health professional to decide what’s right for you.