The Department of Justice announced Friday that it would taking commonsense steps to strengthen the federal background check system for firearm sales. The new revisions seek to reduce obstacles the system that have prevented the distribution of information about the mental health of someone trying to buy a gun.
The proposed changes allow the sharing of information about an individual’s prior mental health adjudications and significant events between state and federal systems. The DOJ has also proposed to clarify that the phrase “committed to a mental institution” include involuntary inpatient and outpatient events.
In 2013, President Obama pushed for gun control reform that included more stringent background checks and limits on assault weapons. While these reforms enjoyed widespread public support in the aftermath of the elementary school shootings in Newtown, Conn., Mr. Obama failed to garner enough congressional support to pass legislation. In response, he vowed to pursue improving gun safety through Executive action. He then proceed to issue numerous orders to improve gun control.
Additionally, the proposed revisions will loosen privacy protections on medical records. In order to provide fuller details of the stability of an individual trying to buy a firearm, the DOJ proposed that the restrictions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) be loosened. By backing off of some HIPAA protections, certain health care providers would be allowed to release limited information to assist in efforts preventing mentally ill individuals from obtaining firearms.
In a statement, Attorney General Eric holder said, “We are taking an important, commonsense step to clarify the federal firearms regulations, which will strengthen our ability to keep dangerous weapons out of the wrong hands.”
Unfortunately, without congressional action the Obama administration is left with only executive orders to try and pursue gun reform, as the issue appears dead in Congress.
Adam Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said to Business Insider, “It seems like it will take another moment like Newtown for Congress to act, which is the most tragic thing in the world.”