477 U.S. 556 (1986), 84-1904, United States Dept. of the Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol,

Docket Nº:No. 84-1904
Citation:477 U.S. 556, 106 S.Ct. 2683, 91 L.Ed.2d 459, 54 U.S.L.W. 4844
Party Name:United States Dept. of the Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol,
Case Date:June 27, 1986
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 556

477 U.S. 556 (1986)

106 S.Ct. 2683, 91 L.Ed.2d 459, 54 U.S.L.W. 4844

United States Dept. of the Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol,

No. 84-1904

United States Supreme Court

June 27, 1986

Tobacco and Firearms v. Galioto

Argued March 26, 1986

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE

DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY

Syllabus

Appellee, who had been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital for a period of several days in 1971, was unable to purchase a firearm from a store in 1982 because of the provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 922(d) prohibiting sales of firearms to such persons. Section 922(d) and other federal statutes prohibiting persons who have been committed to mental institutions from possessing, receiving, or transporting firearms also apply to felons. However, under 18 U.S.C. § 925(c), certain felons could apply to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for administrative relief from the disabilities imposed by federal firearms laws, but no such relief was permitted for former mental patients. After unsuccessfully seeking a special exemption from the Bureau, appellee brought suit in Federal District Court, challenging the constitutionality of the firearms legislation. The court held that the statutory scheme was unconstitutional as violating equal protection principles because there was no rational basis for singling out mental patients for permanent disabled status, particularly as compared to convicts. The court also concluded that the statutory scheme unconstitutionally created an "irrebuttable presumption" that one who has been committed, no matter what the circumstances, is forever mentally ill and dangerous.

Held: The equal protection and "irrebuttable presumption" issues are now moot because, after this Court noted probable jurisdiction over this appeal and heard arguments, Congress amended § 925(c) to afford the administrative remedy contained therein to former mental patients ineligible to purchase firearms. Since appellee's complaint appears to raise other issues best addressed in the first instance by the District Court, the case is remanded for further proceedings. Pp. 559-560.

602 F.Supp. 682, vacated and remanded.

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Page 557

BURGER, J., lead opinion

CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.

We noted probable jurisdiction to decide whether Congress may, consistent with the Fifth Amendment, forbid all involuntarily committed former mental patients to purchase firearms while permitting some felons to do so.

In 1982, appellee attempted to purchase a firearm at Ray's Sport Shop in North Plainfield, New Jersey. The Sport Shop gave appellee a standard questionnaire, which asked, inter alia: "Have you ever been adjudicated mentally defective or have you ever been committed to a mental institution?" Appellee had been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital for a period of several days in 1971, and accordingly answered "yes" to this question. The store then refused to sell him a gun by reason of 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(4), which makes it unlawful for a licensed dealer in firearms

to sell . . . any firearm . . . to any person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such person . . . has been adjudicated as a mental defective or had been committed to any mental institution.

Federal firearms laws also forbid

any person . . . who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution . . . to ship or transport any firearm or ammunition in interstate or foreign commerce,

18 U.S.C. § 922(g), or to "receive any firearm or ammunition which has...

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78 practice notes
  • 85 B.R. 202 (Bkrtcy.D.N.H. 1988), 85-0075, In re Keniston
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Bankruptcy Courts First Circuit
    • 31 March 1988
    ...any logical justification for doing so" offends equal protection clause), vacated as moot, Department of Treasury v. Galioto, 477 U.S. 556, 106 S.Ct. 2683, 91 L.Ed.2d 459 On the other hand the Supreme Court before and after the Fritz decision has also upheld the constitutionality of so......
  • 403 Mass. 621 (1988), Bronstein v. Board of Registration in Optometry
    • United States
    • Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • 20 December 1988
    ...alters the posture" of this case, United States Dep't of Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms v. Galioto, 477 U.S. 556, 559, 106 S.Ct. 2683, 2685, 91 L.Ed.2d 459 (1986), we think the board is correct in asking us to vacate the order. Accordingly, we remand the case to th......
  • 396 F.Supp.2d 630 (M.D.N.C. 2005), 1 01CV00115, Giovani Carandola, Ltd. v. Fox
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    • 26 October 2005
    ...is repealed or amended in a significant way so that the offensive provision ceases to exist. U.S. Dep't of Treasury v. Galioto, 477 U.S. 556, 559-60, 106 S.Ct. 2683, 91 L.Ed.2d 459 (1986). However, litigation challenging a law is not moot if a party shows that the law could be reenacted aft......
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    ...order to provide emergency shelter to all homeless individuals. In support of its position, New Haven cites Dept. of Treasury v. Galioto, 477 U.S. 556, 106 S.Ct. 2683, 91 L.Ed.2d 459 (1986), and Benkendorf v. Hazel Crest, 804 F.2d 99 (7th Cir.1986), for the proposition that a case must be d......
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  • 85 B.R. 202 (Bkrtcy.D.N.H. 1988), 85-0075, In re Keniston
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Bankruptcy Courts First Circuit
    • 31 March 1988
    ...any logical justification for doing so" offends equal protection clause), vacated as moot, Department of Treasury v. Galioto, 477 U.S. 556, 106 S.Ct. 2683, 91 L.Ed.2d 459 On the other hand the Supreme Court before and after the Fritz decision has also upheld the constitutionality of so......
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    • Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • 20 December 1988
    ...alters the posture" of this case, United States Dep't of Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms v. Galioto, 477 U.S. 556, 559, 106 S.Ct. 2683, 2685, 91 L.Ed.2d 459 (1986), we think the board is correct in asking us to vacate the order. Accordingly, we remand the case to th......
  • 396 F.Supp.2d 630 (M.D.N.C. 2005), 1 01CV00115, Giovani Carandola, Ltd. v. Fox
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    • 26 October 2005
    ...is repealed or amended in a significant way so that the offensive provision ceases to exist. U.S. Dep't of Treasury v. Galioto, 477 U.S. 556, 559-60, 106 S.Ct. 2683, 91 L.Ed.2d 459 (1986). However, litigation challenging a law is not moot if a party shows that the law could be reenacted aft......
  • 661 A.2d 973 (Conn. 1995), 14925, Hilton v. City of New Haven
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 20 June 1995
    ...order to provide emergency shelter to all homeless individuals. In support of its position, New Haven cites Dept. of Treasury v. Galioto, 477 U.S. 556, 106 S.Ct. 2683, 91 L.Ed.2d 459 (1986), and Benkendorf v. Hazel Crest, 804 F.2d 99 (7th Cir.1986), for the proposition that a case must be d......
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