Posted on January 3, 2012
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.
Arizona has no law requiring reporting to NICS when a mentally ill individual becomes prohibited from possessing firearms, although an Arizona law requires courts to grant access to certain mental health information to the Arizona Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) in order “to comply with the requirements of [Arizona laws relating to weapons].” More specifically, if a person has been found, as a result of a mental disorder, to constitute a danger to self or others or to be persistently or acutely disabled or gravely disabled and the court enters an order for treatment, the court must grant access to the person’s name, date of birth, social security number and date of commitment to DPS for this stated purpose.2
Although the reporting of a prohibiting mental health event to NICS is not mandatory under Arizona law, 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 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.