Posted on May 6, 2015
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.
In 2014, Arizona enacted a law requiring courts to transmit information to the Supreme Court of Arizona, which must transmit it to the Department of Public Safety (DPS), which must transmit it to NICS, whenever the court:
- Finds a person incompetent, or subsequently competent, or guilty except insane;
- Appoints a guardian for an adult, except when the appointment of a guardian is due solely to the person’s physical incapacity;
- Terminates a guardianship; or
- Finds a person to constitute a danger to self or others or to be persistently or acutely disabled or gravely disabled as a result of a mental disorder, and the court enters an order for inpatient or outpatient treatment.2
A 2011 Arizona law requires reporting to NICS when a formerly mentally ill person’s eligibility to possess firearms is restored. If a court grants a petition restoring a person’s eligibility to possess firearms, the court must promptly notify the Supreme Court of Arizona and DPS. As soon thereafter as practicable, DPS must update, correct, modify or remove the person’s record in any database that DPS “maintains and makes available to [NICS] consistent with the rules pertaining to the database.” Moreover, within ten business days after receiving the notification from the court, DPS must notify the United States Attorney General that the person no longer falls within the provisions of Arizona and federal law prohibiting possession of firearms.3
For general information on the background check process and categories of prohibited purchasers or possessors, see the Background Checks in Arizona section and the section entitled Prohibited Purchasers Generally in Arizona.