Two States Allow Seizing Guns from Mentally Ill; Other States on Hold

Tuesday, July 08, 2014
(photo: Steve Helber, AP)

Despite the many high-profile shootings across the United States, only two states—Connecticut and Indiana— have laws that take guns out of the hands of mentally ill people who pose a threat.


Connecticut was the first to pass legislation that authorized police to seize firearms temporarily when individuals demonstrate they are a danger to themselves or others. Under the 1999 law, the state has 14 days following the seizure to hold a hearing to determine whether the guns should be returned or remain confiscated for up to a year. Lawmakers adopted the landmark bill following a deadly shooting at the state’s lottery office, where four people were killed by a disgruntled employee.


The number of gun seizure warrants filed by law enforcement in the state has increased in recent years, with the 183 in 2013 more than twice 2010’s total.


If police had been alerted to Adam Lanza’s mental health issues, they could have seized his guns and the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy might have been averted.


“That’s the kind of situation where you see the red flags and the warning signs are there, you do something about it,” Michael Lawlor, Connecticut’s undersecretary for criminal justice planning and policy, told the Associated Press. “In many shootings around the country, after the fact it’s clear that the warning signs were there.”


The only other state to follow in Connecticut’s footsteps is Indiana, which adopted its own law in 2005 following the fatal shooting of two people, including a police officer, and the wounding of four others by a mentally ill person. Police there can keep seized weapons for up to five years. However, nothing in Indiana’s law stops someone whose weapons have been confiscated from buying more guns.


Two other states, California and New Jersey, are considering similar legislation. California already has a five-year ban on firearms for anyone communicating a violent threat against a “reasonably identifiable victim” to a licensed psychotherapist.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

States Look to Gun Seizure Law After Mass Killings (by Dave Collins, Associated Press)

Obama Proposes Increased Limits on Gun Sales to Mentally Ill (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

When the Right to Bear Arms Includes the Mentally Ill (by Michael Luo and Mike McIntire, New York Times)


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