The Third, Sixth, and Ninth Circuits are split as to whether the 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4) federal firearms ban violates the Second Amendment rights of those who were once adjudicated as mentally ill but have since returned to good mental health. In Beers v. Attorney General, the Third Circuit applied its own unique framework and held that § 922(g)(4) is constitutional. Meanwhile, the Sixth Circuit applied intermediate scrutiny in Tyler v. Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Department and deemed the statute unconstitutional, while in Mai v. United States, the Ninth Circuit also applied intermediate scrutiny but held that § 922(g)(4) is constitutional. This Comment explores each circuit’s approach to adjudicating these Second Amendment claims, as well as the broader constitutional issues that § 922(g)(4) and its accompanying statutes for relief implicate. Specifically, this Comment asserts that these statutes violate the equal protection and due process rights of many of those adjudicated as mentally ill because federal law provides that citizens in only thirty states may petition for relief from § 922(g)(4). Ultimately, this Comment proposes an amended statute for relief to preserve the constitutional rights of those adjudicated as mentally ill while still maintaining a high standard for relief to protect public safety. Alternatively, this Comment asserts that courts assessing Second Amendment challenges to § 922(g)(4) should adopt the Ninth Circuit’s approach of deferring to Congress’s intent to reduce gun violence while emphasizing that mental illness is not necessarily permanent and should not be stigmatized. Finally, this Comment analyzes the potential efficacy of asserting equal protection and due process claims challenging the constitutionality of § 922(g)(4) and federal relief statutes.
Kaitlyn M. Rubcich
Presumptively Awful: How the Federal Government Is Failing To Protect the Constitutional Rights of Those Adjudicated as Mentally Ill, as Illustrated by the § 922(g)(4) Circuit Split,
49 Pepp. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.pepperdine.edu/plr/vol49/iss4/3