HHS, DOJ Changing Guidelines on Gun Purchases Related to Mental Illness

Despite all the talk of how violent media has influenced recent shootings – including the most recent one at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut –  the White House is moving on dealing with gun access to individuals who suffer from "sever metal illnesses."

At least two federal agencies plan to modify regulations to make it more difficult for people with severe mental illness to gain access to firearms by revising regulations on background checks and by allowing medical professionals to disclose certain information. The Justice Department and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced plans to revise regulations to improve the background check system for "severely mentally ill people" who request to own or work with firearms.

The changes are the result of executive orders announced last January by President Obama. At the time he said these orders would "address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system."

With the mandate from the president, the HHS plans to change the HIPPA privacy rules to allow health care entities and professionals to disclose the identities of people who are ineligible to own firearms to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

Those subject to these changes were "involuntarily committed to a mental institution; found incompetent to stand trial or not guilty by reason of insanity; or otherwise have been determined by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority to be a danger to themselves or others or to lack the mental capacity to contract or manage their own affairs, as a result of marked subnormal intelligence or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease."

"Under the HHS proposal, only covered entities with lawful authority to make adjudication or commitment decisions that make individuals subject to the federal mental health prohibitor, or that serve as repositories of information for NICS reporting purposes, would be permitted to disclose the information needed for these purposes."

The information would be limited to whether or not an individual is subject to a federal mental health prohibitor, and demographic information, according to the action. Individuals deemed to have a mental health prohibitor may not ship, transport, posses, or receive a firearm, according to the action.

Public comments on the proposed regulation are due by March 10.

On a related note, the Justice Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced plans to clarify the categories of people prohibited from buying firearms under the 1968 Gun Control Act. The agency proposed changing the definition of "adjudicated as a mental defective" to clarify its meaning as someone "found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect." The agency also plans on clarifying that the designation "committed to a mental institution" under the law applies to people who received any kind of involuntary inpatient or outpatient mental health treatment.

The agency seeks public comments about how these rules apply to people who were involuntarily committed while minors. Comments on the proposed regulation are due by April 7.

Source: Courthouse News

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  1. 0
    Scott1701c says:

    I am very glad to hear that. I always worry that if I tell the wrong person that I will end up getting reported and having to go to court.

    Is there a specific study that you can link me?

  2. 0
    jedidethfreak says:

    How many of those people LEGALLY owned the firearms they used?  The only one I know of that actually owned the firearms in question was the Navy Yard guy, iirc.

    Which brings up the point – none of these changes are going to do anything but put people at risk of having their Second Amendment rights withheld due to Federal burocracy.

  3. 0
    black manta says:

    In answer to your question, yes, a few of them had been considered a danger to themselves and others.

    I believe Aaron Alexis was considered by their doctor or therapist to be potentially harmful to himself and others.  But I don't know if there was any follow-up.

    James Holmes was definitely considered dangerous after what his school's therapist read in his notebook.  But by then he had withdrawn from his classes and was thus outside the school's jurisdiction to be able to do anything about him.  I believe also that his notebook was admitted as evidence during his trial in support of this.

    Sueng-Hui Cho was also considered to be potentially violent.  But as Hevach said, doctors were hamstrung by Virginia's mental healthcare laws and were unable to do anything about him.

    I don't know anything about the Oakland shooter, so I can't comment on that.

    As for Adam Lanza, no, there was nothing in the reports from his medical history that he was considered dangerous our violent.  But again, like Hvach said, he was often uncooperative with both his mother and his doctors.  So it was probably almost impossible to get an accurate diagnosis from him.

  4. 0
    GrimCW says:

    But were they found DANGEROUS?

    Just having a mental illness does not make one dangerous. Thats why I noted the ADD/ADHD/Aspergers. As they've been under assault as possible "threats" for some unknown reason.

    If they were found to be a danger to themselves or others, then I could see this. But TMK, navy yard guy aside, they were not.

    Also, are the treatments prescribed often necessary, or are they actually making things worse? Being saddled with such treatments can be a sort of societal taboo in some circles, and having it at first, then dropping it later can actually instigate worse symptoms (withdrawal being a major one). Both of these are often far worse than just learning to live with the "problems" as opposed to fighting and denying them.

    As often a person stuck on the medication never learns to come to terms with their own self, and when they're cutoff (as is often a problem due to cost of medications and lack of jobs and insurance) it makes it nearly impossible for the person to actually learn to overcome whatever they may have. They lose control, and don't know what to do.  This doesn't necessarily make them dangerous, but it can cause problems.

    Edit: By societal taboos I don't just refer to school time relationships and friends.

    I also refer to job searching and holding. Its illegal to discriminate by right over it, but that doesn't stop it from happening. And in some cases (such as military) it can actually just have you banned from even being permitted the job overall over nothing.

  5. 0
    Neeneko says:

    From what I gather, hearing voices is actually a lot more common then people generally think, but the stigma associated with it has really made it seem rare.  Luckily the professional lititure is starting to catch up to this.

  6. 0
    Scott1701c says:

    I am not normal by many standards. Namely, I talk to voices in my head. I always quantify that the voices have never, NEVER, told me to do anything violent. Mainly, we have philosophical debates, discussions about matters of the day, debates on politics, mainly joking around with myself (I have never been lonely because I have always talked to myself).

    I know of a few other people like me. I have heard their horror stories of Psychologists forcing them into therapy because they did not conform to societies standards of "normal". Nevermind that they, like me, had no violent tendencies whatsoever. But they were still forced into treatment, that did far more harm then good (drugs that have symptoms that are also  physiological disorders? how are they legal and how can you tell the difference?).

    Do not misunderstand me, there are people who need real help. Depression, Schizophrenia, Suicidal behavior, Post-Tramatic Stress Disorder, ect. But I have seen too many Doctors say "well that is not normal, medicate and into therapy." in much the same way that Homosexuals were locked up in mental health institutions 80 years ago.

  7. 0
    Technogeek says:

    I'll agree that this is by far the biggest issue I have with the proposed rules. At minimum, I'd like to see some method of expungement, be it a "if it was more than X years ago it doesn't count" cutoff rule or some form of examination to ensure that the issues which led to an involuntary commitment are no longer applicable.

  8. 0
    GrimCW says:

    TBH that pretty much piggy backs another bogus law regarding the right to bear arms.

    They also have it so that if your even so much as accused (never proven, or even proven not to have) of domestic violence. You lose it already anyways.

    All it takes is the accusation, not the act. Theres already fairly thin ice for legal gun ownership as it stands. So adding anything to it is questionable at best without thorough consideration for the wording. 

  9. 0
    Hevach says:

    Actually, quite a few of them had been found to be mentally ill before hand. Not all of them, and a lot of the rest did slip through the cracks for the reasons you mention, but just out of recent mass shootings:


    The Navy yard shooter had an extensive history of diagnosis and treatment, but was denied the full extent of his VA healthcare coverage.

    The Aurora shooter was diagnosed, but had stopped taking his meds and refused to return to treatment.

    The Oakland shooter had been diagnosed and treated for over a decade before refusing further treatment.

    The Virginia Tech shooter had been diagnosed two years earlier and had been uncooperative with treatment. Shortcomings in Virginia's mental health care system were cited in the report, however it was noted that even without those issues, his repeated refusal to comply with treatment would have likely remained.

    The Sandy Hook shooter is a harder case. He'd been seen extensively by mental health professionals, and had been diagnosed with autism, OCD, and sensory processing disorder. He was uncooperative with doctors, and even in the best of times, his mind was a bag full of cats and many doctors would pass off further symptoms as the results of his known disorders and not investigate further.

  10. 0
    Neeneko says:

    The biggest red flag I see so far is that 'involuntarily committed' one since that could cover a LOT of ground, and it does not take all that much to get someone else committed against their will, at least for a short time.

    For instance I know someone who was involuntarily committed by her school because she tried to commit suicide.   She was then expelled because apparently depression means you are a 'danger to others' in their minds (read: they did not want mentally ill students since it bothered the normal ones), which leaves a bit of a mark that such a search would probably turn up.

    The mentally ill are already treated very poorly and are far more likely to be victims then attackers, and I always get a bit skeptical (to put it midly) when I hear about a plan to restrict their rights even more because they 'scare normal people' or simply do not have the lobbying power to stand up for themselves.

  11. 0
    GrimCW says:

    Never mind still that so far those that have gone on these rampages were never seen/found to have had any severe mental illnesses due to lacking in available/affordable mental health care for them, or accepted by them (such as adam lanza) in any way. Let alone was it found after the fact for any (TMK) that they suffered any such for most….

    It still would not have prevented this most recent attack (The firearms again, were not his), nor helped in any other (except perhaps the navy yard shooter? but was he even checked for anything?)

    While I don't mind the idea, this puts another nail in place regarding how nearly EVERYONE is being deemed to have some sort of mental health problem these days, as the country is medicated more and more for nothing. Somehow I see conspiracy nuts going crazy with this, as the connections of past to present are lining up a little to easily…. So they better define what they consider the cutoff REAL well.. Because attacking minor things like ADD/ADHD/Aspergers is going to set some flames going.. As none of them are generally "violent" in nature, but they have become buzzwords of late.

    Still isn't keeping the firearms out of the hands of those who illegally purchased them, its just another reason to deny them to those who would legally try, and will now more quickly resort to illegal methods.

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