Feds seek to dismiss Second Amendment case involving mentally ill

By Zachary Lewis | Apr 14, 2017

PHILADELPHIA – Plaintiffs questioning a law that bans the mentally ill from possessing firearms have dropped Pennsylvania defendants from their case while remaining federal officials recently filed a motion to dismiss claims against them.

The motion was filed Feb. 28 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, days before plaintiffs Bradley Beers and Joseph Divita dropped the following Pennsylvania entities and individuals as plaintiffs: The Bucks County Sheriff’s Department, Bucks County Sheriff Edward J. Donnelly, Bucks County District Attorney Matthew D. Weintraub, Attorney General Joshua Shapiro, Commissioner Tyree Blocker and the Pennsylvania State Police

According to federal law 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(4), it is unlawful for individuals who have been committed to a mental institution to own guns. The plaintiffs, who are unable to own firearms, argued the law violates their Second and Fifth Amendment rights.

The plaintiffs filed a lawsuit that brought charges against a number of government officials and entities, including the U.S. attorney general, the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and FBI Director James Comey, among others.

The federal government says Second Amendment rights are unrelated to the plaintiffs’ situation and their histories, and their involuntarily commitment for “severe” mental disabilities supersedes their Second Amendment rights. It cited District of Columbia v. Heller, a case in which it was determined that the Second Amendment allowed for the denial of access to firearms for the mentally ill.

The motion also cited empirical evidence stating people who have been involuntarily committed are more prone to violence. According to a study cited from National Institute of Mental Health, patients with serious mental illnesses were two to three times as likely to be assaultive as people without an illness. 

They also have an increased risk for suicide, with a 90 percent of people who commit suicide having a mental illness, the motion claims.

According to the feds, both plaintiffs were committed for suicidal tendencies and were considered dangers to themselves and others. Beers allegedly placed a gun in his mouth, threatening to kill himself in front of his mother, while Divita allegedly held a knife toward his father and confessed to his sister that he would kill himself if he ever obtained a gun.

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