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President Announces Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence

Janaury 8, 2016—President Obama Jan. 4 unveiled a series of executive actions to address gun violence, including a proposal for additional funding for improved access to mental health care and the release of a final Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule clarifying mental health privacy reporting requirements for gun permits.

A White House fact sheet states, “We must continue to remove the stigma around mental illness and its treatment—and make sure that these individuals and their families know they are not alone…. In addition to helping people get the treatment they need, we must make sure we keep guns out of the hands of those who are prohibited by law from having them.”

Noting that “less than half of children and adults with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they need,” the administration is proposing $500 million “to help engage individuals with serious mental illness in care, improve access to care by increasing service capacity and the behavioral health workforce, and ensure that behavioral health care systems work for everyone. This effort would increase access to mental health services to protect the health of children and communities, prevent suicide, and promote mental health as a top priority.”

The administration also announced that the Social Security Administration (SSA) will begin rulemaking to ensure that appropriate information about beneficiaries who are prohibited from possessing a firearm for mental health reasons is reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

It is expected that this reporting, which SSA will do in consultation with the Department of Justice, will cover appropriate records of the approximately 75,000 people each year who have a documented mental health issue, receive disability benefits, and are unable to manage those benefits because of their mental impairment, or who have been found by a state or federal court to be legally incompetent. The rulemaking also will provide a mechanism for people to seek relief from the federal prohibition on possessing a firearm for reasons related to mental health.

The White House also reported that HHS has issued a final rule expressly permitting certain covered entities under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) to provide to the NICS limited demographic and other necessary information about these individuals. The White House says this rule will “remove unnecessary legal barriers preventing States from reporting relevant information about people prohibited from possessing a gun for specific mental health reasons.” Although states generally report criminal history information to NICS, many continue to report little information about individuals who are prohibited by federal law from possessing or receiving a gun for specific mental health reasons because of concerns that the HIPAA privacy rule would preclude such reporting.


Dave Moore
Senior Director, Government Relations
Telephone: 202-828-0559


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