Administration Proposes Fixes To Gun Background Check System

A year after Newtown school shooting

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Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive to light 26 candles honoring the 26 students and teachers killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., at the White House in Washington, December 14, 2013.

More than a year after the Newtown school shooting, the Obama administration on Friday announced two proposed rule changes to improve the federal background check system to keep guns out of the hands of those with mental health issues.

The White House said the Department of Justice is taking steps to clarify terms in the federal law barring those with certain mental health problems from purchasing firearms following complaints from states that have called the statute ambiguous.

“Today, DOJ is issuing a proposed rule to make several clarifications. For example, DOJ is proposing to clarify that the statutory term ‘committed to a mental institution’ includes involuntary inpatient as well as outpatient commitments,” the White House said in a statement. “In addition to providing general guidance on federal law, these clarifications will help states determine what information should be made accessible to the federal background check system, which will, in turn, strengthen the system’s reliability and effectiveness.”

The Department of Health and Human Services is proposing a rule change to explicitly state that medical providers can provide information to the federal background check system without violating federal medical privacy laws.

“The proposal would give states and certain covered entities added flexibility to ensure accurate but limited information is reported to the [National Instant Criminal Background Check System], which would not include clinical, diagnostic, or other mental health information,” the department said in a statement. “Instead, certain covered entities would be permitted to disclose the minimum necessary identifying information about individuals who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution or otherwise have been determined by a lawful authority to be a danger to themselves or others or to lack the mental capacity to manage their own affairs.”

The technical fixes come as the Obama administration’s efforts to pass additional gun control laws remain stymied by congressional Republicans.

18 comments
mbrad77
mbrad77

This charade will all end when we prove Sandy Hook was a big Hoax

Spencer60
Spencer60

These aren't 'fixes', they are back door gun control measures. 


The current language that says someone cannot be deprived of their rights (including the right to bear arms) unless they are involuntarily committed is perfectly clear.


Trying to say that someone has been 'involuntarily committed' on an 'outpatient' basis makes no sense at all. By definition if you are committed it is to an inpatient facility. 


If this stands, they will then have to define what an 'outpatient commitment' is, and trust me, they will use a very broad brush.


The second executive order is even worse. The administration cannot override a law Congress has passed. HIPPA is the law of the land, and it specifically limits the type of medical information that can be released. 


It already allows the release of the 'involuntary commitment' discussed above, so nothing else should be required. 


However if the definition of the so-called 'outpatient commitment' is adopted, HIPPA would probably block that information. 


If the administration wants to change HIPPA, they need to submit a bill to Congress and try and get it passed. An executive order in this case needs to be challenged in court, and if challenged, the history against such orders conflict with laws satys it will almost certainly be deemed illegal. 



fusgeyer
fusgeyer

This is most certainly a power grab. How can they claim that diagnostic information will not be divulged when they are looking into mental health records? It violates a patients right to privacy and all this will accomplish is keeping people away from seeking help when they need it. Changing the law would not have prevent the trajedy at Sandy Hook. The guns were purchased legally by his mother--who had no mental illness and would have been able to purchase the guns legally with the proposed changes to the law. Try enforcing current laws instead. 

sacredh
sacredh

This power grab violates the rights of the mentally ill to purchase weapons. Obama leads us further down the path to socialism.

ChandraZarembinski
ChandraZarembinski

This is a great idea and will help to a small degree, but in reality the people who want guns in order to do something terrible will always be able to find them.

RB1
RB1

Oh Boy, here we go again!!!!!!  I'm so tired of this battle. Yet, even the gun rights groups (me too) acknowledge that we need to enforce the current laws and I think that may include correcting the flawed laws that are on the books.

therigel
therigel

How can President Obama be trusted to protect the right to bear arms?  I understand there have been instances of a veteran mourning the loss of a fellow soldier and later receiving a letter telling him to turn in his firearms.  He is only too willing to twist the truth if it suits his purposes.  Whenever Mr. Obama "fixes" something, it invariably involves a loss of freedom and a path to oppression.

Yoshi
Yoshi

Too bad this wouldn't have prevented any of the school shootings, including Newtown.
 Also, what are "outpatient commissions"?

Bry2013
Bry2013

@ChandraZarembinski  This is a bad idea that won't help anything or anybody.  Enforce what's on the books already, correct the mistakes with the current laws, and if we aren't enforcing what's on the books which is very true then why in the world do we need to come up with new ones.  I am all for hope and making people feel better but this is just a smoke screen to show that "something was done." 

bobcn
bobcn

@ChandraZarembinski  

"in reality the people who want guns in order to do something terrible will always be able to find them."

Really?  I know that this is a popular cliche, but is it really true?

If you were mentally incompetent (or mentally dangerous) do you know someone who would sell you an illegal gun? I'll bet you don't.  

If a few mentally ill people can get to guns, but most can't, then that's better than the situation we have now.

Bry2013
Bry2013

@RB1 Okay RB1 my opinion is to correct and enforce what's on the books already.  If we can't enforce and correct those laws what are new ones going to do?

Bry2013
Bry2013

@SallySnyder   I am a firm believer in background checks.  I am also a firm believer in using what we have on hand to correct the problem rather than creating something new out of a knee jerk reaction to appease people.

manlyman
manlyman

@SallySnyder The first thing the liberal media needs to do is take the word health out of topic. Shorten it to "mental issues". The word health (as in healthcare) hasn't been so good to Obama lately.

manlyman
manlyman

@therigel It's pretty bad when you have to use failures as shiny objects to pull attention away from even greater failures.

fusgeyer
fusgeyer

@Yoshi Outpatient involves living at home and seeing a counselor/psychologist/psychariatrist on a regular schedule. So anyone who has court ordered visits to a counselor--through divorce proceedings, DWI, anger management, or people who are in marriage counseling or someone who just needs to get their life in order, people who seek counseling to deal with a chronic or terminal disease, will all have their records sent to the gov't because they are in counseling. This is especially true  if they are going to counseling at a mental health center instead of a private practioners office.

Bry2013
Bry2013

@bobcn@ChandraZarembinski  It is a bet that you would most certainly lose. How do you know what a "mentally incompetent or mentally dangerous person looks like????  How do you know when someone is off of their meds????  You are way off base with this.  Here is a novel idea, try enforcing the laws that are already on the books and then come up with new ones if those don't work.  The bottom  line is "in reality the people who want guns in order to do something terrible will always be able to find them."  That is both true and accurate.