Do I lose my gun rights if I voluntarily seek mental health treatment?

The criteria for which types of mental health issues might give rise to a gun rights prohibition under either state or federal law is staggeringly complex.

For the average citizen, unfamiliar with researching and parsing legal language, the task of understanding this area of law can span the spectrum from daunting to impossible.

Perhaps even worse, it can lead to a proliferation of misunderstandings and misinformation which has the real possibility of criminal charges being filed against a confused applicant for answering one of the questions on a state or federal background check form incorrectly.

Because of this, I would encourage anyone who is uncertain about a given event in their past to contact me for a free consultation during which we can discuss the issue and determine what steps we need to take to clarify the situation.

However there are a few questions which remarkably have a clearly defined answer and one of the most common is this:

“If I voluntarily admitted myself to get mental health treatment, have I lost my gun rights?”

The answer is “No.  Not if you sought voluntary treatment entirely on your own.”  I have to add that caveat to the answer because, under state law, voluntarily admitting yourself for treatment after being held on a temporary detention order (TDO) still results in a prohibition.

However, if a TDO is not involved and a person admits themselves for treatment voluntarily (and is not subsequently committed or ruled to be mentally incompetent or incapacitated by a board, authority, or magistrate) then this does not trigger a prohibition under state or federal law.

The ATF provides a guidance sheet covering federal law which I have embedded below.  I have highlighted the relevant portion.

Download (PDF, 114KB)

Disclaimer:  This information is presented for educational purposes only and does not give rise to an attorney-client relationship. Additionally, I am licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia and this answer is specific to Virginia.  Other states may and do have laws which differ from this analysis.  In those cases you should consult an attorney licensed to practice law in that specific state.

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