Mental Health and Gun Rights in Virginia: A View from the Battlefield

14 Pages Posted: 28 May 2014

See all articles by Robert Luther

Robert Luther

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty

Date Written: May 27, 2014


This article discusses my experiences representing hundreds of patients who have been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility in Virginia — a state where firearms are very much a part of the culture. Because an individual subject to involuntary commitment loses his or her rights to transport, possess, carry, or receive a firearm, I have occasionally been asked by former clients to help them with the restoration of their firearm rights after they have recovered. This article discusses some of the obstacles imposed by state and federal law that may arise during that restoration process. Perplexingly, in Virginia, an individual who signs him/herself in for voluntary admission to a mental health facility is saddled with the same firearms disability as an individual who is involuntarily committed by a court. This article argues that imposing the same firearms disability on an individual who seeks voluntary admission exposes the public to unnecessary harm because some individuals who may be inclined to seek voluntary treatment will forgo doing so if they know they will lose their firearm rights. This article argues that it would be in the best interest of the patient and the community to amend Virginia’s voluntary admission form so that individuals who seek voluntary mental health treatment are not automatically relieved of their firearm rights.

Keywords: mental health, involuntarily commitment, firearms disabilities, firearm rights restoration, behavioral economics, Virginia

Suggested Citation

Luther, Robert, Mental Health and Gun Rights in Virginia: A View from the Battlefield (May 27, 2014). 40 New England Journal on Criminal and Civil Confinement 345 (2014). Available at SSRN:

Robert Luther (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty ( email )

3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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