New proposed background screen regulations for gun purchases
Both the federal government and state lawmakers have been working to regulate mental health requirements and background screen requirements for those who wish to purchase firearms. These requirements are expected to protect citizens from injuring themselves or others by preventing the mentally ill or those who have been charged or convicted of a crime from acquiring guns. President Obama introduced two such regulations since the beginning of January. These proposed regulations will refine the verbiage of existing laws that prevent the mentally ill from possessing guns. Additionally, they will remove obstacles that prevent states from offering up full disclosure on those with mental illnesses or a criminal history during a background screen. For the latter, one such obstacle is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which prevents doctors and insurance providers from disclosing citizens’ private medical documents without written consent. However, HIPAA does not prevent states from providing mental health information to the FBI for the purpose of preventing firearm purchases. However, most states have erred on the side of personal privacy in submitting incomplete records, or no records at all, to the FBI. The new language will clarify what HIPAA and the states are allowed to share with federal agencies. Opponents of these regulations include mental health advocates, who argue that the mental health regulations are so broad that they may serve to stigmatize those who receive involuntary outpatient mental health services, such as therapy or clinical evaluations via outpatient treatment. Those who are involuntarily committed to an inpatient mental health facility or are declared mentally ill by a court are already prohibited from owning firearms. Meanwhile, 11 states are working to close a loophole that allows people to purchase guns via the Internet or a gun show without undergoing a background screen. As it stands, those with criminal records could purchase firearms without disclosing their history. Missouri Representative Stacey Newman has previously introduced a bill to expand background screen coverage for those who wish to purchase guns, and similar legislation has already passed in other states, preventing weapons from getting into the hands of convicted or charged criminals. States like Colorado and Virginia have already seen an increase in the number of rejected transactions due to increased background checking, preventing deadly weapons from falling into the hands of the mentally ill or convicted. To learn more about these issues, check out the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence’s document on guns, public health and mental illness.]]>
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