Application of a firearm seizure law aimed at dangerous persons: outcomes from the first two years

Psychiatr Serv. 2010 May;61(5):478-82. doi: 10.1176/ps.2010.61.5.478.

Abstract

Objectives: In 2005, in response to the shooting death of a police officer by a paranoid man, Indiana passed a law authorizing police to seize firearms without a warrant if they believe the person owning the firearm is dangerous because the person has a mental illness and is noncompliant with psychiatric medication or if the person has a propensity for violent or unstable conduct. This study sought to determine the use of this law in Indianapolis.

Methods: All Indianapolis firearm seizure cases that had a final hearing in 2006 and 2007 were identified; demographic information, seizure circumstances, and hearing outcome were recorded.

Results: A total of 55 cases were heard in 2006, and 78 were heard in 2007. The defendants were predominantly white (83%) and male (81%). Risk of suicide was the leading reason for confiscation (56% in 2006 and 71% in 2007), followed by substance abuse (29% and 27%, respectively), risk of violence (22% and 13%, respectively), and domestic disturbance (24% and 8%, respectively). Psychosis was a factor in only 11% and 9% of cases, respectively. A large majority of cases resulted in immediate detention (69% and 78%, respectively). In 2006, 95% of cases resulted in involuntary or voluntary surrender of the seized weapons to the court, but in 2007, only 22% of cases resulted in involuntary or voluntary surrender. However, in 2007 68% of cases resulted in court-ordered retention because of failure to appear (26%) or inability to be served (42%).

Conclusions: Firearm seizure by police was rarely a result of psychosis; instead, risk of suicide was the leading reason. The application of the law by both police and the court changed over the first two years of its use.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Continental Population Groups / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Dangerous Behavior*
  • Female
  • Firearms / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Firearms / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Indiana
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders* / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Violence / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Violence / prevention & control