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.
A 2009 New Jersey law created an exception to the rule of confidentiality for inpatient records for when “disclosure is needed to comply with the data reporting provisions of the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007, Pub.L.110-180, and the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, Pub.L.103-159.” 2
More significantly, a 2013 law states:
In compliance with the federal NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007, Pub.L. 110-180 and the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, Pub.L. 103-159, the Attorney General shall direct the Superintendent of the State Police to collect, in cooperation with the Administrative Office of the Courts, such data as may be required to make a determination as to whether a person is disqualified from possessing or receiving a firearm under 18 U.S.C. § 922 or applicable State law, and to transmit such data to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System administered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.3
Any person seeking to purchase or possess a firearm in New Jersey must obtain either a permit to purchase a handgun or a Firearms Purchaser Identification Card (FPIC) following a background check, among other requirements.4 Applicants for a permit to purchase a handgun or FPIC must state:
whether he has ever been confined or committed to a mental institution or hospital for treatment or observation of a mental or psychiatric condition on a temporary, interim or permanent basis, giving the name and location of the institution or hospital and the dates of such confinement or commitment, whether he has been attended, treated or observed by any doctor or psychiatrist or at any hospital or mental institution on an inpatient or outpatient basis for any mental or psychiatric condition, giving the name and location of the doctor, psychiatrist, hospital or institution and the dates of such occurrence …5
The applicant must “waive any statutory or other right of confidentiality relating to institutional confinement.” 6
For general information on the background check process and categories of prohibited purchasers or possessors, see the New Jersey Background Checks and New Jersey Prohibited Purchasers Generally sections.
See our Mental Health Reporting policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.