The Lifetime Ban on the Second Amendment

Balancing the Rights of the Mentally Ill and the Right to Bear Arms

Each year, tens of thousands of people become victims of gun violence. It has now become imperative that the United States implement effective gun control to ensure public safety. The discussion surrounding gun control has primarily focused on mentally ill individuals. Currently, federal law prohibits individuals who have been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric institution from owning a firearm. The law is unclear on how long this ban should last. Some courts, notably the Third and Ninth Circuits, hold that this ban should be for a lifetime. The Sixth Circuit, on the other hand, has found that a lifetime ban on a constitutional right would not be appropriate. This Note argues that the Supreme Court should rectify this split among the circuits and find that a lifetime ban on firearm ownership based on an involuntary commitment is unconstitutional. Limiting gun ownership for individuals based solely on a previous involuntary commitment is arbitrary, and it supports the inaccurate notion that an involuntary commitment is an accurate predictor for future acts of violence. The government should shift its focus away from an individual’s mental health status. Instead, it should use evidence-based risk factors for violence as the guiding force behind gun control. This change would allow government officials to take positive steps towards instating effective gun control that addresses the potential risks that arise from mental illnesses while still maintaining the constitutional rights of these individuals.

a. J.D., 2022, University of Illinois College of Law; B.S. in Chemical Engineering, 2019, University of Iowa. I would like to thank my husband, Cody, and my parents for supporting me on my educational journey for these last seven years. I could not have done this without them. Lastly, I would like to thank the members and staff of the University of Illinois Law Review for their assistance in editing and producing this note.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.