See our Mental Health Reporting policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue. Federal law prohibits possession of a firearm or ammunition by any person who has been “adjudicated as a mental defective” or involuntarily “committed to any mental institution.”1 No federal law, however, requires states to report the identities of these individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database, which the FBI uses to perform background checks prior to firearm transfers.
In 2013, Colorado clarified its mental health reporting requirements, as part of the same bill that requires background checks before unlicensed firearms sales. The State Court Administrator must now send electronically to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) the name of each person determined by the court to be:
- incapacitated by court order;
- committed to the custody of the Colorado Department of Human Services that administers behavioral health programs including those related to mental health and substance abuse;
- ordered for involuntary certification for short-term treatment of mental illness;
- ordered for extended certification for treatment of mental illness; or
- ordered for long-term care and treatment for mental illness.
The State Court Administrator must make such a report not more than 48 hours after receiving notification of a person who meets the above descriptions. However, the State Court Administrator must take all necessary steps to cancel a record in the NICS system if:
- The person to whom the record pertains makes a written request to the State Court Administrator; and
- No less than three years before the date of the written request:
- The period of commitment of the most recent order of commitment expired; or
- A court entered an order terminating the person’s incapacity or discharging the person from commitment in the nature of habeas corpus, if the record in the NICS system is based on an order of commitment to the custody of the unit in the department of human services that administers behavioral health programs and services, including those related to mental health and substance abuse.2
The State Court Administrator must not cancel any record pertaining to a person with respect to whom two recommitment orders have been entered or who was discharged from treatment on the grounds that further treatment will not likely bring about significant improvement in the person’s condition.3 If a court becomes aware that the basis upon which a record reported by the State Court Administrator to CBI does not apply or no longer applies, the court must:
- Update, correct, modify, or remove the record from any database that the federal or state government maintains and makes available to NICS, consistent with rules pertaining to the database; and
- Notify the Attorney General that such basis does not apply or no longer applies.4
The 2013 law set forth a judicial procedure for restoring a person’s gun eligibility after being subject to the federal firearm prohibitions for the dangerously mentally ill, pursuant to the federal NICS Act of 2007.5
Colorado specifically authorizes the obtaining, accessing, use or disclosure of relevant medical records or medical information for firearm purchaser background checks purposes by CBI, the clerk of the court of any judicial district, the clerk of the probate court of the city and county of Denver, or by any of their employees, as well as accessing such records and information through the NICS system.6 For general information on the background check process and categories of prohibited purchasers or possessors, see the Colorado Background Checks section and the section entitled Colorado Prohibited Purchasers Generally.