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.
State law requires the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to compile and maintain an automated database of persons who are prohibited from purchasing a firearm based on court records of adjudications of mental defectiveness or commitments to mental institutions.2 Clerks of court must submit these records to FDLE within one month after the rendition of the adjudication or commitment.3 Such reports must be submitted in an automated format. The reports must, at a minimum, include the name, along with any known alias or former name, the gender, and the date of birth of the subject.4
FDLE is authorized, but not required, to disclose the collected data to agencies of the federal government and other states for use “exclusively” in determining the lawfulness of a firearm sale or transfer. FDLE is also authorized to disclose any collected data to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for the purpose of determining eligibility for a concealed weapons or concealed firearms license and for determining whether to revoke or suspend such a license.5
Florida law includes definitions of the terms “adjudicated mentally defective” and “committed to a mental institution.”6 Persons involuntarily committed for outpatient treatment are included within the definition of “committed to a mental institution.”7
In 2013, Florida enacted a law that includes a person voluntarily admitted to a mental institution for outpatient or inpatient treatment in the definition of “committed to a mental institution” if: (1) an examining physician has determined that the person poses an imminent danger to himself, herself, or others and has certified that he or she would have filed a petition for involuntary commitment if the person had not agreed to voluntary treatment; (2) the person has been given notice and an opportunity to contest this certification; and (3) a court has reviewed this certification and ordered the person’s record to be submitted.8
Restoration of Firearms Eligibility: A person who has been adjudicated mentally defective or “committed to a mental institution” as defined above may petition the Circuit Court that made the adjudication or commitment for relief from the firearm prohibition.9 A copy of the petition must be served on the state attorney for the county in which the person was adjudicated or committed. The state attorney may object.10 The court must grant the relief if it finds, based on evidence presented regarding the petitioner’s reputation, mental health record and criminal history record, the circumstances surrounding the firearm disability, and any other evidence, that the petitioner is not likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety and that granting the relief would not be contrary to the public interest. If the final order denies relief, the petitioner may not petition again for one year.11
For general information on the background check process and categories of prohibited purchasers or possessors, see the Florida Background Checks section and the section entitled Florida Prohibited Purchasers Generally.
- 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(4). ⤴︎
- Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(a)(4). ⤴︎
- Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(a)(4)(c)(I). However, if a person was committed to a mental institution following voluntary admission where a subsequent involuntary examination found the person was an imminent danger to self or others, the administrator of the receiving or treatment facility must submit a record of that finding, with certain other certifications and notices, to the clerk of the court for the county in which the involuntary examination occurred within 24 hours of the person’s agreement to voluntary admission. Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(a)(4)(c)(II). The clerk must present these records to a judge or magistrate within 24 hours and the judge or magistrate must, upon determining that the record supports classifying the person as an imminent danger to self or others, submit such records to FDLE within 24 hours. Id. ⤴︎
- Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(a)(4)(c). ⤴︎
- Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(a)(4)(f). When a potential buyer or transferee appeals a nonapproval based on these records, the clerks of court and mental institutions must, upon request by FDLE, provide information to help determine whether the potential buyer or transferee is the same person as the subject of the record. Photographs and any other data that could confirm or negate identity must be made available to FDLE for such purposes, notwithstanding any other provision of state law to the contrary. Any such information that is made confidential or exempt from disclosure by law must otherwise remain confidential. Id. ⤴︎
- Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(a)(4)(a), (b). ⤴︎
- See Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(a)(4)(b)(I). ⤴︎
- See Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(a)(4)(b)(II). ⤴︎
- Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(a)(4)(d). ⤴︎
- Id. ⤴︎
- An order denying relief may be appealed to the District Court of Appeal. Id. Upon receipt of proper notice of relief from the firearm prohibition, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services must delete the mental health record from the automated database. Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(a)(4)(e). ⤴︎