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Ninth Circuit: Man ‘Committed to Mental Institution’ Decades Ago Can’t Get a Gun Despite Alleged Recovery


It is not a violation of the Second Amendment to bar a man who was involuntarily committed to a mental institution in 1999 from possessing a firearm “despite his alleged return to mental health and peaceableness,” the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday.

The story goes that Duy Mai was committed to an institution more than 20 years ago for a period of more than 9 months after a Washington court determined he was mentally ill and dangerous. Mai, who says he has since recovered, filed a lawsuit in 2017 after he tried to buy a gun and was denied:

Plaintiff was seventeen years old at the time of commitment, and his commitment spanned his eighteenth birthday.

Since his release from commitment in 2000, Plaintiff has earned a GED, a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s degree. He is gainfully employed and a father to two children. According to the complaint, he no longer suffers from mental illness, and he lives “a socially-responsible, well-balanced, and accomplished life.”

Mai claimed that his Second Amendment right to bear arms and Fifth Amendment right to due process were violated.

The district court dismissed his case and that Ninth Circuit affirmed that decision, citing to 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(4). The statute in question:

Any person who has been “adjudicated as a mental defective” or “committed to a mental institution” is prohibited under Federal law from shipping, transporting, receiving, or possessing any firearm or ammunition. Violation of this Federal offense is punishable by a fine of $250,000 and/or imprisonment of up to ten years. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(4) and 924(a)(2).

“We also hold that the prohibition on the possession of firearms by persons, like Plaintiff, whom a state court has found to be both mentally ill and dangerous is a reasonable fit with the government’s indisputably important interest in preventing gun violence,” the court wrote. “Scientific evidence supports the congressional judgment that those who have been committed involuntarily to a mental institution still pose an increased risk of violence even years after their release from commitment. Section 922(g)(4)’s continued application to Plaintiff does not violate the Second Amendment.

“We therefore affirm the district court’s dismissal of this action,” the court concluded.

You can read the ruling below.

Ninth Circuit Duy Mai opinion by Law&Crime on Scribd

[Image via Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.