What does "mentally ill" mean in relation to gun sales?

In another thread someone mentioned some state laws that make it illegal to sell a gun knowingly to someone who is mentally ill, what does that mean?

I don’t know a single young person in the USA that hasn’t been on a SSRI or other antidepressant or anxiety med or even anti-psychotic(RX’d for insomnia!) at some point. It is much rarer to have been hospitalized, but not unknown.

What is the definition of mental illness? Seems if you cast the net wide enough you’ll snare everyone.

I’m sure it varies a bit from state to state, but in Pennsylvania the dividing line is whether or not you have ever been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility. However, PA also has a clause though that says you can’t be of unsound mind, which could be taken a bit more broadly.

The way I understand the laws to be enforced, being on an anti-depressant alone probably wouldn’t be enough to prevent you from purchasing a firearm. Being hospitalized for it though would. If you were in any other way declared mentally incompetent by a court of law that would also prevent you from purchasing a firearm.

From the ATF form 4473 which must be filled out for a legal firearm transaction:

The key word is “adjudicated.”

We had a thread a few weeks ago about someone who was taken to a mental hospital and immediately sent home and wondered if he could have a shotgun.

To repeat my understanding on what counts:
Outpatient treatment only: NO
Go voluntarily to hospital; sign in as a volunteer: NO
Taken involuntarily to hospital, released without being admitted: NO
Taken involuntarily to hosptial, immedately sign in as a volunteer: MAYBE*
Taken involuntarily to hospital, sign in as volunteer after period of time (days, weeks) YES
Taken involuntarily to hospital, kept involuntarily by order of a court: YES
Found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity by a court: YES

*There is no specific case law on this particular scenario even though it’s one of the most common out there.

I think they want to filter out the people who think Dick Cheney put a chip in their brain and want to find him and have him remove it, not people who want help for their depression, even if that includes a voluntary stay.

Oh. And I’m not sure I understood your question. If it’s “what’s mentally ill in a legal sense” with regards to firearms law" I answered above. If it’s “what’s mentally ill in a medical sense” it’s if you meet the criterea in the DSV-IV manual for mental illness, the most significant being that whatever else the critera are, it has to be ongoing and impacting your life. In practice the standards are interpretted broadly so that anyone that wants treatment can get it (and get insurance to pay. Insurance won’t pay for counseling in the absence of mental illness, which is why marraige counseling isn’t covered.) Drink to much coffee and get jitterry so you can’t type at work? That’s caffeine use disorder?

Of course there’s a lot of controversy as to what is a mental disorder and what is merely abbhorhant or even normal behavior. Is the kid a spoiled brat or does he have oppossitional defiant disorder? Is someone cutting to get attention or do they have depression or borderline personality disorder? Are you depressed because of the situation, or because of chronic low seratonin?

grude writes:

> I don’t know a single young person in the USA that hasn’t been on a SSRI or
> other antidepressant or anxiety med or even anti-psychotic(RX’d for insomnia!)
> at some point.

I find this really unlikely. Yes, such drugs are more commonly prescribed than they used to be, but they aren’t that common. Does someone have a statistic that would address this issue?

That was it, I was curious about the legal definition as applies to gun law.

I’m surprised people can be banned from owning a gun if they’ve ever been mentally ill. Why restrict someone who was mentally ill once, but has been fine for the past 30 years?

WTF? Seriously? Every young adult you know is medicated?
Both of my children are now adults, and I think of maybe one of their friends that is on meds.

Notice I said “at some point”, and yes I struggle to think of someone who hasn’t had a script at some point.

Don’t know how pertinent this is;
Had an individual inquire about my Concealed Carry Class and his past HX of PTSD
I couldn’t answer the question and referred him/her to the Sheriff, as he is the issuing authority.
He would not make a decision until the application was submitted and that required taking my class and then the $100.00 application fee. I then suggested to said person go through the application process for a permit to purchase witch is free. That went through and the person took my class and then applied and was issued a Carry permit.

This says that 10% of children in the U.S. have suffered from mental illness:


If that isn’t what you’re talking about, grude, then I think that it’s your job to come up with some statistics backing up your claim.

Dude, not that many kids are on them or ever have been.

That’s very strange. As a young adult, who knows a lot of young adults, I can think of… two who’ve been on mental health scripts.
Yes, they’re both ex-girlfriends. Why do you ask?

Why would you know if other people are taking prescription drugs of any kinds? Do you go snooping through their medicine cabinet? I am aware of a few people taking antidepressants, but it is not something that would disclosed to a causal acquaintance.

Also keep in mind that antidepressants are often used for physical aliments. If it was prescribed to help lose weight or quit smoking, then it is hardly relevant to owning a firearm.

BTW, the most current reference I found is:


page 19

And for people who don’t want to dig through the PDF, the stats are thus: 11% of adults report taking an antidepressant in the last month. 7% report taking an antianxiety medication. There’s probably some overlap between those two groups, but we’re talking a ballpark of 15% of adults that are currently taking medication.

Of the 85% that are not currently medicated, there must be some portion who have taken medications previously, and some portion that will take medications in the future. That same cite says that half of all Americans will have a serious mental condition at some point in their life time.

Yes and like I said in my OP I know someone who was RX’d an anti-psychotic for insomnia, I was wondering if someone uses a gun in a high profile crime if a gung ho prosecutor might not try to use a SSRI script as proof of mental illness or something.

And yes me and my friends commonly do discuss meds RX’d and how they have worked for us etc. like little old ladies. Just recently we had a discussion about how effective each of us found buproprion(those that had tried it).:stuck_out_tongue:

Sometimes it seems being an American IS a serious mental condition.