In what the Wall Street Journal calls the first legal ruling of its type, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled unconstitutional a federal law that kept a Michigan man who was briefly committed to a mental institution decades ago from owning a gun. The court said the federal ban on gun ownership for anyone who has been “adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution” violated the Second Amendment rights of Clifford Charles Tyler, 73.
“The government's interest in keeping firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill is not sufficiently related to depriving the mentally healthy, who had a distant episode of commitment, of their constitutional rights,” wrote Judge Danny Boggs for a three-judge panel. Lucas McCarthy, Tyler's lawyer, called the ruling “a forceful decision to protect Second Amendment rights,” and said he hoped it that it would have “a significant impact on the jurisprudence in the area of gun rights.” Adam Winkler, a Second Amendment expert and law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the ruling could give momentum to the gun-rights movement. “I wouldn't be surprised to see legal challenges to other parts of the [federal gun] law now,” he said.