Thursday, April 9, 2009

Michigan Concealed Pistol License: Mental Health Considerations

Some prospective applicants for a state of Michigan Concealed Pistol License (CPL) are reluctant to apply for the permit because of a belief that they may be statutorily ineligible, due to their own assessment of their own mental health. This hesitation to apply is fueled, in part, by intimidating language on the CPL Application which states, "intentionally making a false statement on this application is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 4 years or a fine of not more than $2,500, or both." This article will explore the mental health requirements for CPL licensees as defined in Michigan Public Act 381 of 2000.

Specified Mental Health CPL Disqualifications

The statute is reasonably clear on most of the mental health requirements for an applicant to be eligible for a CPL. Consider the following CPL applicant stipulations:
  • The applicant has not been found guilty but mentally ill of any crime and has not offered a plea of not guilty of, or been acquitted of, any crime by reason of insanity.

  • The applicant has never been subject to an order of involuntary commitment in an inpatient or outpatient setting due to mental illness.

  • The applicant is not under a court order of legal incapacity in this state or elsewhere.

Most individuals, upon reading the statute, have a decent understanding of what the statute means with respect to the aforementioned mental health scenarios. In all of those cases, the mental health of the applicant at some time in the past can be objectively assessed as to whether a disqualifying event actually occurred by consulting relevant evidence (e.g. court transcripts, court orders, and medical records).

However, the statute does a clumsy job of defining what exactly is a mental illness for the purposes of that section of the law and the last mental health disqualifier. The last stipulation, with respect to CPL applicant mental health, states that:
    The applicant does not have a diagnosed mental illness at the time the application is made regardless of whether he or she is receiving treatment for that illness.

The statute defines mental illness as, "a substantial disorder of thought or mood that significantly impairs judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality, or ability to cope with the ordinary demands of life, and includes, but is not limited to, clinical depression."

For the most part, the statute is not clear as to what exactly constitutes a mental illness. The only clear phrase is the term clinical depression. However, that term is not defined in the statute.

What Is NOT Clinical Depression?

Clinical depression is not the resultant expression of disappointment, sadness, or grief that a person experiences as a consequence of dealing with the inevitable bad things that can happen during life. At some point in time, it can be expected that most people, at one time or another, will incur a significant loss or suffer through a personal tragedy (e.g. loss of a loved one, loss of a job, or loss of a home). Most people after a period of adjustment, which may last for a period of time commensurate with the experienced loss, are able to cope with their changed circumstances.

What Is Clinical Depression?

Clinical depression is an extreme manifestation of sadness that is felt over an unduly long period time which, in some cases, can't be explained away as a consequence of dealing with a misfortunate incident. A clinically depressed person is not able to cope with every day life issues and may experience feelings of despair and hopelessness which could lead to, but is not limited to, a suicide attempt.

Obviously, the line that separates "a case of the blues" from clinical depression needs to be clearly drawn to identify people who are in need of help. Accordingly, the American Psychiatric Association's Manual, DSM-IV, has defined a person as clinically depressed if he is experiencing five (5) or more of the following symptoms:

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.

  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or most, daily activities most of the day, nearly every day.

  • Significant weight changes (e.g. a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month), or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.

  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too much) nearly every day.

  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day.

  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.

  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.

  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.

  • Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

Note: The only persons who are qualified to make a diagnosis as to whether an individual is clinically depressed is a qualified mental health professional.

CPL Application Considerations

If you meet all of the requirements for a CPL and you desire to be licensed, you should submit your application. The application when signed by the prospective licensee, authorizes the County Gun Board to gain access to the applicant's mental health records.

If the applicable County Gun Board wishes to discuss your mental health status before making a decision as whether you will be granted a permit, you should strongly consider hiring an attorney to represent you and protect your rights. Furthermore, the CPL applicant has the right to have any and all discussions about his mental health records and mental health eligibilty conducted during a closed session with himself and his attorney present. The statute clearly states that the discussions within this closed session are confidential to outsiders of the process.

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