The overall thrust of the 6th Circuit’s decision is to affirm that the Second Amendment, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights, stakes out some very valuable individual real estate, where the government must fear to tread.

It might not get the news coverage it deserves with everything else going on at the moment, but the unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati against a federal gun law is a very big deal. The court held that the federal ban on gun ownership by people who have been committed to a mental institution is an unconstitutional violation of the Second Amendment. Rulings of that caliber (if you’ll pardon the pun) don’t come down all that often. The previous instance was the Supreme Court’s Heller ruling against Washington D.C.’s firearms ban in 2008, which those on both sides of the gun control debate would agree was a very big deal.

Today’s ruling was prompted by the efforts of 73-year-old Clifford Charles Tyler to purchase a gun. His application for a permit was denied because he spent one month in a mental institution, in 1986, due to emotional problems following his divorce. (According to the background material in the 6th Circuit Court decision, his ex-wife allegedly cleaned out his bank accounts and ran off with another man, leaving Tyler so despondent that he wept incessantly, couldn’t sleep, and had suicidal thoughts. He was committed for treatment after his fearful daughters called the police. He never did anything more violent than pound on his own head in despair.)

The law provides individuals with such troubles in their distant past with an opportunity to prove they have recovered from their disability, but unfortunately federal funding for programs to demonstrate relief was terminated over 20 years ago, and Tyler’s home state of Michigan never set up a program of its own. Tyler, and other Michigan residents, were therefore left with a theoretical concession to their Second Amendment rights that was impossible to take advantage of in practice. He passed screenings by both his physician and a psychologist, who agreed that his depressive episode decades previously had been an isolated incident, and he has since remarried, but none of that was good enough to satisfy the federal gun law.

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