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AB 1968 Creates Lifetime Gun Ban for Some Afflicted with a Mental Health Disorder
Assembly Bill 1968 was signed into law by Gov. Brown in September 2018. The bill establishes a lifetime ban on gun ownership for those persons who are:
involuntarily admitted to a facility for a mental health disorder more than once in a year; and,
are considered a danger to themselves or others.
Please note, though, that persons subject to this ban can petition the court every five years to have the ownership ban reversed.
AB 1968 marks a change in California law. Prior to the bill, persons involuntarily committed to a mental health facility, and deemed a danger to themselves or others, could potentially own a gun after five years from the date of release from the facility.
New Laws Under Assembly Bill 1968
AB 1968 applies to those persons who are both:
involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility on more than one occasion in a single year; and,
are designated as a danger to themselves or others.
The bill states that if a person falls into this category, they are prohibited from owning a firearm for the rest of their lives.
But this ban can be reversed. Persons subject to the ban can petition the court every five years to have the gun prohibition overturned. Gun ownership will be granted if a judge believes the person would be likely to use a gun in a safe and lawful manner.
Laws Prior to Assembly Bill 1968
AB 1968 changed California’s existing law on gun ownership for those involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility. Under the State’s old law, persons involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility, and deemed a danger to themselves or others, were prohibited from possessing a firearm for five years from the date of release from the facility.
After the five-year period expired, a party could petition the court for the restoration of the right to own a gun. This right would be restored if a judge determined that the party would be likely to use a firearm in a safe and lawful manner.
Reasoning for AB 1968
Proponents of the new law support it for two main reasons.
The first is a pure policy interest in safety. Supporters of the bill state that it is in the best interest of society if people at risk of harming themselves and others do not have easy access to guns.
The second reason is to help prevent persons with mental health disorders from killing themselves. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, mental health afflictions are a major contributor to suicide, and 51% of suicides are committed with firearms. The reasoning then follows that if persons with a mental health disorder do not have a gun, they will have less of a chance to take their own lives.
Assembly Bill 1968 was introduced in January of 2018 by Assembly member Evan Low. The bill adds Section 8103 to the California Welfare and Institutions Code.
About the Author
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.