Posted on Sunday, July 27th, 2014
Federal law prohibits any person from selling or otherwise transferring a firearm or ammunition to any person who has been “adjudicated as a mental defective” or “committed to any mental institution.”1 No federal law 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, Hawaii enacted a law requiring courts to report people involuntarily committed, as inpatients or outpatients, to the Hawaii criminal justice center, which must in turn transmit this information to NICS. This information must also be available to law enforcement officers for the purposes of Hawaii’s firearms permitting and registration laws.2 The normal rules of confidentiality do not apply. 3 The 2014 law also provided a procedure for people prohibited from possessing firearms under federal law due to mental illness to regain their gun eligibility. 4
Health care providers and public health authorities in Hawaii must disclose mental health information of persons seeking to purchase or own a firearm to county chiefs of police in response to requests for such information.5 This information is to be used solely for evaluating a person’s fitness to acquire or own a firearm.6 Hawaii requires applicants for permits to purchase or acquire firearms to authorize disclosure of mental health information. Applicants must sign a waiver when completing the application that allows the Chief of Police of the county issuing a permit access to any records that have a bearing on the mental health of the applicant.7
The Department of Health is required to keep a medical record of each person committed to the custody of the department or hospitalized because the person is dangerous and there is no less restrictive alternative available, because he or she lacks fitness to proceed in a criminal case, or because he or she has been acquitted on grounds of mental disorder or defect, is dangerous and is not a proper subject for conditional release.8
See our Mental Health Reporting policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.