States increasingly are allowing people who lost their firearm rights because of mental illness to petition to have them restored, reports the New York Times. A handful of states have had such restoration laws on their books for some time, but with little notice, more than 20 states have passed similar measures since 2008. This surge can be traced to a federal law after the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech that was meant to make it harder for people with mental illness to get guns.
As a condition of its support for the measure, the National Rifle Association obtained a mechanism for restoring firearms rights to those who lost them for mental health reasons. States have mostly entrusted decisions to judges, who may be ill-equipped to conduct investigations from the bench. Many seemed willing to give petitioners the benefit of the doubt. The results often seem haphazard. At least a few hundred people with histories of mental health issues get their gun rights back each year.