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Executive Orders Expand Mental Health Information in Federal Gun Background Checks

Since a clandestinely recorded clip of then-candidate Obama emerged saying that voters in Pennsylvania “cling” to god and guns, the President has been perceived as a staunch opponent of the Second Amendment. However, in his first term the only thing the President did regarding gun rights was allow people to carry weapons in National Parks. However in light the highly-publicized spate of mass shootings, most powerfully the Newtown shooting, the President issued two executive actions focused on federal background checks.

Most responsible legal-gun owners do not object to the background check system since it was implemented in 1993. While any expansion of gun laws—such as New York’s restrictive magazine-capacity law—sends the most fervent firearm enthusiasts into a fury, these new proposals seem perfectly rational but, like all laws, have the potential for abuse.

The proposals are designed to ease the regulations that prevent states from sharing information about mental health with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, specifically by easing some of the privacy protections in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA.

As written, these proposals only affect “persons prohibited from having guns for mental health reasons,” thus does not mean that simply visiting a therapist will prevent a citizen from owning a gun. However, the vague nature of that language has those that fear the slippery slope skeptical of the reforms.

The White House is still calling on Congress to pass “common-sense gun safety legislation,” such as “expanding background checks and making gun trafficking a federal crime.” However, Congress already did that in March of 2013.

The Obama administration is proposing “a new $130 million initiative to address several barriars that may prevent people—especially youth and young adults—from getting help for mental health problems.” However, Congress would still have to appropriate those funds in order to make that happen.  


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