Man sues Pennsylvania State Police after 'mental defective' flag prevents him from buying gun

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Saying he was told he couldn't buy a gun because he was a "mental defective," a Butler man sued the Pennsylvania State Police late Monday, claiming there was no basis for the denial and that troopers refused to correct the error.

Jeffrey L. Burtner tried in May 2012 to buy a hunting rifle from a federally licensed firearms dealer in Butler, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh.

He submitted to the required background check. Although he had previously bought guns with no problem, this time the Pennsylvania Instant Check System indicated that he had been involuntarily committed to a mental institution in 1992.

People who have "been adjudicated as a mental defective or who [have] been committed to a mental institution" are not allowed to possess guns, the lawsuit notes.

Mr. Burtner responded that the information was not correct and approached the hospital and provider listed on the PICS response. Both responded that they had no record suggesting any such commitment, according to the complaint.

His attorney, Joshua Prince, provided the documentation to state police attorneys, according to the complaint.

The attorney for the state police responded "that the PSP has been unable to find any involuntary commitment documentation on Mr. Burtner but that Mr. Burtner would have to take legal action for the PSP to remove it from PICS," according to the complaint.

Mr. Burtner seeks a declaration that he is eligible to buy a gun, an injunction directing the police to expunge from their records any reference to an involuntary commitment and payment of attorney fees.

A state police spokeswoman said the agency does not comment on litigation.

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Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 and on Twitter: @richelord.


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