President Obama finalized a rule on Jan. 4 that allows health care providers to report mentally ill people to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
Health care providers will not be held legally liable for reporting mentally disturbed people to the NICS under the new executive order, notes POLITICO. This is a significant change, considering that before, doctors were not allowed to share information without the patient's consent.
Paul Gionfriddo, chief executive of Mental Health America, an advocacy group, noted that the Obama administration's new policy allows doctors to share need-to-know information with the FBI, while also protecting a patient's privacy.
“That could be a barn door opened quite wide if an administration really wanted to open it, and they didn’t,” he told POLITICO. “The administration has taken great pain to try to clarify that there is very limited information that would be reported only within a very limited group."
A White House press release on Jan 4. said that the Social Security Administration is going to create a "rulemaking process to include information in the background check system about beneficiaries who are prohibited from possessing a firearm for mental health reasons."
On Jan. 5, Obama announced that his other changes would include closing loopholes in the background check system -- such as for gun shows and online sales, POLITICO reported in a separate article. Additionally, the FBI will be adding 230 agents to perform background checks.