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Psychological Testing and Firearm Permits

08/26/2009

The article, “An Empirical Survey of Psychological Testing and the Use of the Term Psychological: Turf Battles or Clinical Necessity?” (Dattilio, Frank M.; Tresco, Katy E.; Siegel, Alex Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. 2007 Dec Vol 38(6) 682-689) includes the apparently erroneous statement:

“Most states in the United States will only issue a permit to carry a firearm to individuals who undergo psychological testing by a licensed psychologist and are approved.”
When I asked Dr. Datillio via email to cite a statute supporting this statement, he provided only a Pennsylvania statute requiring the applicant to undergo such an evaluation in order to obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun for (non law enforcement) work. According to the National Rifle Association 48 states issue permits for concealed carry of handguns to ordinary citizens, and none of them requires psychological evaluation. An Internet search appeared to confirm this. Official documents, including statutes, application forms, and other listings of requirements of 35 states revealed not a single one requiring psychological evaluation. Almost all the states in some way restrict issuance of permits, purchase or possession of firearms for individuals with a putative history of substance use disorder or other mental illness.
The laws of at least two states provide for restoration of the right to be issued a concealed carry permit after it has been revoked. The state of Massachusetts allows a physician (not a psychologist) to restore the right of permit. The permit may be restored when the individual
“(ii) has been confined to any hospital or institution for mental illness, unless the applicant submits with his application an affidavit of a registered physician attesting that such physician is familiar with the applicant’s mental illness and that in such physician’s opinion the applicant is not disabled by such an illness in a manner that should prevent such applicant from possessing a firearm;
“(iii) is or has been under treatment for or confinement for drug addiction or habitual drunkenness, unless such applicant is deemed to be cured of such condition by a licensed physician, and such applicant may make application for such license after the expiration of five years from the date of such confinement or treatment and upon presentment of an affidavit issued by such physician stating that such physician knows the applicant’s history of treatment and that in such physician’s opinion the applicant is deemed cured;…”
The state of Mississippi allows a psychiatrist (not a psychologist) to restore the right of permit when the individual

“Has not been voluntarily or involuntarily committed to a mental institution or mental health treatment facility unless he possesses a certificate from a psychiatrist licensed in this state that he has not suffered from disability for a period of five (5) years;…”

In no state’s materials was there any basis for concluding that evaluation by a psychologist might suffice. But even the two laws quoted above presume the physician or psychiatrist is qualified to make this determination in the absence of generally accepted criteria and with assumption of considerable liability for a bad outcome.