Dear Ms. Abrahamson,
Thank you for your recent email relating to the Pennsylvania Mental
Health Procedures Act and the right to keep and bear arms. In your
correspondence, you suggested that the Mental Health Procedures Act or
the Uniform Firearms Act be amended in one of two ways.
You suggested that a prohibition based on Section 302 of the Mental
Health Procedures Act expire after five (5) years. Alternatively, you
suggest that the State Police provide notification to persons
involuntarily committed under Section 302 of the Act that they
prohibited from possession of firearms and must properly dispose of
firearms and weapons to avoid felony criminal sanctions.
Under the current law, a person who has been prohibited from possession
of firearms based on involuntary mental health treatment under Sections
302, 303 or 304, may petition the court of common pleas in the judicial
district where the individual resides to have their firearm rights
restored. The court has the authority to restore firearm rights if the
court “determines that the applicant may possess a firearm without
risk to the applicant or any other person.”
Given the broad discretion granted to the courts under existing law, it
is highly unlikely that a proposal to add an automatic five-year limit
on 302 commitments would receive favorable consideration in the
You might be interested to know that the Uniform Firearms Act was
amended a number of times in the 1990’s to further provide for the
disposition of firearms in the possession of someone who is prohibited.
One paragraph in particular states “A person who is prohibited from
possessing, using, controlling, selling, transferring or manufacturing a
firearm under paragraph (1) or subsection (b) or (c) shall have a
reasonable period of time, not to exceed 60 days from the date of the
imposition of the disability under this subsection, in which to sell or
transfer that person's firearms to another eligible person who is not a
member of the prohibited person's household.” (See 18 Pa.C.S.
In 2004, the Superior Court had an opportunity to review this provision
and held that “the date of the imposition of the disability,” at
least as it relates to criminal offenses, is the date of conviction. To
extend that reasoning to prohibitions from possession of firearms due to
involuntary commitments, it would mean that a person would have 60 days
after being involuntarily committed to dispose of their firearms.
You raise a legitimate concern in your email to me: How would the
average person know that a single commitment under Section 302 would
create such a disability in the first place?
I have brought this matter to the Chairman of the House Judiciary
Committee and it is my understanding that legislation will be introduced
this session to require the Pennsylvania State Police to notify persons
subjected to involuntary mental health commitments of their disability
under the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act; their right to transfer
their guns to another person (who does not live in the same household)
within 60 days; and their ability to petition the courts for relief.
I will watch for this legislation as we move forward and I will
remember your input should this bill come up for a vote.
Again, thank you for contacting me about this issue. I hope this
response adequately addresses your concerns. Please do not hesitate to
contact me if you have any questions about this or other matters
relating to state government.
Member, 75th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives