White House announces two more gun control executive actions

Photo credit: www.nytimes.com

The Obama administration Friday released two executive actions to regulate the sale of firearms, both involving the release of mental health information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Vice President Joe Biden made the announcement, and the executive orders were detailed in a White House press release titled, “Strengthening the Federal Background Check System to Keep Guns out of Potentially Dangerous 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 White House release said.

The first order releases states from liability from the privacy provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, when they submit “the limited information necessary to help keep guns out of potentially dangerous hands” of mental health patients to the federal government for background checks, according to the release.

“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,” the press release said. “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.”

The second order defines the term, “committed to a mental institution,” to include any patient involuntarily committed — whether as an inpatient or outpatient.

Given that mass shootings are almost the exclusive domain of the mentally ill, there’s no question they should be prevented from purchasing or possessing firearms.

But the idea of limiting a fundamental constitutional right by drafting an executive order in some back room of the White House is wholly inappropriate.

The issue demands the careful deliberation and spirited debate required of an act of Congress — not the impatient flourish of a presidential pen.


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