United States v. Hansel – Case Brief Summary (Federal Court)

In United States v. Hansel, 474 F.2d 1120 (8th Cir. 1973), a local board of mental health concluded that the defendant was mentally ill and ordered him to be hospitalized pursuant to a Nebraska statute. Id. at 1122.

A doctor evaluated the defendant, found that he did not have a serious mental disorder, and that he did not need hospitalization. Id.

Hansel subsequently purchased a firearm and, in doing so, "stated on the 'Firearms Transaction Record' that he had not been adjudicated mentally defective or committed to a mental institution." Id. at 1121.

Thereafter, he was charged with a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(6), for falsely certifying that he had not been adjudicated a mental defective or committed to a mental institution. Id.

He was also charged with violating 18 U.S.C. § 922(h)(4) (now g(4)), for receipt of a firearm after having been adjudicated a mental defective or committed to a mental institution. Id.

After Hansel was convicted, he appealed. Id. The Eighth Circuit reversed both convictions. Id. at 1125.

In finding that the defendant had not been "committed" within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 922(h), the Eighth Circuit noted that nothing in the statute "indicates an intent to prohibit the possession of firearms by persons who had been hospitalized for observation and examination, where they were found not to be mentally ill." Id. at 1123.

It added: "The statute makes it clear that a commitment is required." Id.