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Beers v Barr (US) - Once involuntarily committed means permanently prohibited?

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#1 Euler


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Posted 24 January 2020 - 10:38 PM


Fourteen years ago, when he returned home from college in winter 2005, nineteen-year-old Bradley Beers ... contemplated suicide, remarking that he had nothing to live for. Mr. Beers's mother contacted his pediatrician, who recommended bringing him to the Lower Bucks Hospital, a facility offering both voluntary and involuntary commitment for inpatient treatment of mental illness. ... However, Mr. Beers was overwhelmed, and the employees at the hospital were frustrated. As a result, his mother filled out the paperwork instead; the form the employees gave her was for involuntary commitment. Consequently, Mr. Beers was involuntarily committed by Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, for a period not to exceed seven days. This was later extended, and Mr. Beers soon returned home. Since that temporary experience with teenage depression fourteen years ago, Mr. Beers has never needed treatment for his mental health. It is undisputed that he is mentally healthy and not a danger to himself or to others.

In 2013, Mr. Beers saw psychiatrist Dr. Mark Bernstein, M.D., who concluded after a thorough medical examination that Mr. Beers was able to "safely handle firearms." Later, the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County issued an Order declaring that Mr. Beers was not a danger to himself or others, restoring his state firearm rights pursuant to 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 6105(f). This did not restore Mr. Beers's federal rights, however, as Pennsylvania's relief-from-disabilities program had not been approved by the ATF.

Mr. Beers therefore filed this suit [in federal district court], seeking declaratory and injunctive relief barring the government from enforcing § 922(g)(4) against him on the grounds that it violated the Second Amendment, his right to due process, and his entitlement to equal protection of the laws. The district court dismissed, holding that evidence of rehabilitation played no role in the Second Amendment analysis.

The Third Circuit affirmed, concluding that "[p]assage of time and evidence of rehabilitation" are categorically irrelevant. According to the panel, those who have been involuntarily committed are "unvirtuous" and irrevocably "forfeit" their Second Amendment rights in precisely the same manner as felons.
The court gave no reasons for asserting that the Founders viewed felons and the mentally ill as equivalent, or that they believed that mental illness demonstrated "unvirtuousness" characteristic of those who committed "'serious' crimes."

Edited by Euler, 24 January 2020 - 10:44 PM.

The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants, and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience.

- Albert Camus, Resistance, Rebellion, and Death, 1960.

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