PHILADELPHIA – Two men have appealed a Sept. 25 order in which a federal judge dismissed their lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania and federal laws that prohibit individuals who were previously admitted to a mental institution from owning a gun.
Plaintiffs Bradley Beers and Joseph DiVita are appealing the district court ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. They allege violations of the Second Amendment, the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause.
The district court said Beers and DiVita later agreed to dismissal of their lawsuit against commonwealth officials after the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas “relieved them of disabilities with respect to gun possession.”
The remaining federal government officials - including Attorney General Jefferson B. Sessions III, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and its deputy director and assistant deputy director and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and former director James Comey - asked the district court to dismiss the lawsuit against them.
“Because plaintiffs have failed to state a claim under the Second Amendment, and their Fifth Amendment claims likewise fail, defendants’ motion to dismiss is granted,” the district court said in its ruling.
According to the dismissal ruling, Beers and DiVita were involuntarily committed to mental institutions in connection with Pennsylvania’s Mental Health Procedures Act (MPHA).
Fearing that he would carry out threats to kill himself, the ruling said Beers’ mother took him to the hospital for a mental health evaluation. There, the district court said, a doctor “determined Beers was depressed and suicidal, and that inpatient treatment was needed for his safety.”
Following a hearing before the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County, in which “a mental health review officer found Beers was severely mentally disabled and in need of treatment,” he was committed. Beers was subsequently committed again in January 2006.
Meanwhile, the district court said DiVita was involuntarily committed in 1988 because he “had taken some LSD and was experiencing hallucination and paranoia.” DiVita allegedly also threatened to harm his father with a knife. DiVita’s sister took him to the hospital, where “a physician found that DiVita was suicidal and a danger to himself,” the ruling said.
The district court said DiVita “received treatment at Horsham Clinic and continued to receive therapy after his release.”
Beers’ application to purchase a firearm was rejected in 2006 as a result of his previous commitments, and “DiVita was denied a concealed carry license on the basis of his commitment” in 2015, the opinion said.