The Obama administration on Friday put forward two proposals to strengthen the federal gun background check system so that relevant mental health information is shared more efficiently with the states. In the absence of any hope for congressional action on the issue of gun control, the proposals are for two new executive actions.
The first proposal, from the Justice Department, is for more specific regulations clarifying who is prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law for reasons related to mental health. For instance, the agency would clarify that the statutory term “committed to a mental institution” includes involuntary inpatient as well as outpatient commitments. The rule change comes in response to complaints from states that the terminology used to bar people from purchasing guns for mental health reasons is too ambiguous.
The second proposed regulation from the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department in response to state complaints that they can’t submit relevant information to the federal background check system because of privacy provisions in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s (HIPAA). The proposed HHS rule would give certain HIPAA-covered entities permission to submit limited information to the background check system.