The first is from the Department of Justice (DOJ), who is proposing a regulation to clarify who is prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law for reasons related to mental health.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is issuing a proposed regulation to address barriers preventing states from submitting limited information on those persons to the federal background check system.
According to the White House Press Release "the vast majority of Americans who experience a mental illness are not violent, in some cases when persons with a mental illness do not receive the treatment they need, the result can be tragedies such as homicide or suicide."
The Administration is committed to making sure that anyone who may pose a danger to themselves or others does not have access to a gun.
The Obama Administration feels that the federal background check system is the most effective way to assure that such individuals are not able to purchase a firearm from a licensed gun dealer. The Obama Administration claims that background checks have prevented over two million guns from falling into the wrong hands.
The black-market or side-street gun dealers will of course not be affected by either of these Executive actions.
The Administration’s two new executive actions will help ensure that better and more reliable information makes its way into the background check system. The Administration also continues to call on Congress to pass common-sense gun safety legislation and to expand funding to increase access to mental health services.
Some states have also said that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s (HIPAA) privacy provisions may be preventing them from making relevant information available to the background check system regarding individuals prohibited from purchasing a firearm for mental health reasons. In April 2013, HHS began to identify the scope and extent of the problem, and based on public comments is now issuing a proposed rule to eliminate this barrier by giving certain HIPAA covered entities an express permission to submit to the background check system the information necessary to keep guns out of potentially dangerous hands. The proposed rule will not change the fact that seeking help for mental health problems or getting treatment does not make someone legally prohibited from having a firearm. Furthermore, nothing in the proposed rule would require reporting on general mental health visits or other routine mental health care, or would exempt providers solely performing these treatment services from existing privacy rules.
President Obama and Vice President Biden are continuing to press Congress to act on proposed gun regulations. Reasserting again that passing common-sense gun safety legislation – including expanding background checks and making gun trafficking a federal crime – remains the most important step to reduce gun violence. The Obama Administration insists that the vast majority of Americans support these measures which "would not infringe on anyone’s Second Amendment rights."
President Obama’s FY 2014 Budget proposes a new $130 million initiative to address several barriers that may prevent people from getting help for mental health problems.
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