White House issues executive actions strengthening gun background checks

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On Friday, the Obama administration announced two proposals to strengthen the federal gun background check system so that relevant mental health information is shared with the states. The first proposal comes from the Justice Department and focuses on specific regulations clarifying who is not allowed to posses a firearm under federal law for reasons related to mental health. A key clarification in this proposal is clarifying that "committed to a mental institution" includes involuntary inpatient as well as outpatient commitments.

The second proposal comes from HHS and would "... modify the HIPAA Privacy Rule to permit certain HIPAA-covered entities to disclose to the NICS the identities of persons prohibited by federal law from possessing or receiving a firearm for reasons related to mental health." allow certain HIPAA-covered entities permission to submit limited information to the background check system." (source - HHS press release)

We are sharing the press release from the White House below. As of this morning (Saturday) we have not yet been able to locate the text of the HHS proposal on their website. We will post it as soon as we obtain it. It is important for Network faithful to review the document and make comment. The press release from the HHS website indicates that "The [Notice of Proposed Rulemaking] NPRM will be available for review beginning at 4:15pm on Friday, January 3, 2014, at: http://www.federalregister.gov.  Comments can be submitted to http://www.regulations.gov.

UPDATE 1/5/14 - Special thanks to the Tower Foundation for locating and sharing the DOJ and HHS notices of proposed rulemaking.

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release  -  January 03, 2014

FACT SHEET: Strengthening the Federal Background Check System to Keep Guns out of Potentially Dangerous Hands

Today, the Administration is announcing two new executive actions that will help strengthen the federal background check system and keep guns out of the wrong hands.  The Department of Justice (DOJ) is proposing a regulation to clarify who is prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law for reasons related to mental health, and 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.

Too many Americans have been severely injured or lost their lives as a result of gun violence.  While 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 takes a comprehensive approach to mental health issues by expanding coverage of mental health services so care is affordable, launching a national conversation on mental health to reduce stigma associated with having a mental illness and getting help, directing funds we have now to improve mental health facilities, and proposing more funds be used for efforts such as training additional mental health professionals.

At the same time, 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 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.  To date, background checks have prevented over two million guns from falling into the wrong hands. 

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.

Progress to Strengthen the Federal Background Check System

Over the past year, the Administration has taken several steps to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is used to run background checks on those who buy guns from federally licensed gun dealers to make sure they are not prohibited by law from owning a firearm.  For example:

Two New Actions to Further Strengthen the Federal Background Check System

Some states have reported that certain barriers under current law make it difficult for them to identify and submit appropriate information to the federal background check system regarding individuals prohibited under federal law from having a gun for mental health reasons.  Today, DOJ and HHS are taking steps that will help address these barriers.

Calling on Congress to Act

In addition, the President’s FY 2014 Budget proposes a new $130 million initiative to address several barriers that may prevent people – especially youth and young adults – from getting help for mental health problems.  The President and the Vice President continue to call on Congress to appropriate funds for these important purposes.


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