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Privacy Laws Slow Efforts on Gun-Buyer Data
NY Times ^ | May 2, 2007 | MICHAEL LUO

Posted on 05/01/2007 9:46:57 PM PDT by neverdem

WASHINGTON, May 1 — Momentum is building in Congress behind a measure that would push states to report their mental health records to the federal database used to conduct background checks on gun buyers.

But a thicket of obstacles, most notably state privacy laws, have thwarted repeated efforts to improve the reporting of such records in the past and are likely to complicate this latest effort, even after the worst mass shooting in United States history at Virginia Tech last month.

Federal law prohibits anyone who has been adjudicated as a “mental defective,” as well as anyone involuntarily committed to a mental institution, from buying a firearm. But only 22 states now submit any mental health records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, against which all would-be gun purchasers must be checked.

The erratic reporting is a problem to which gun-control advocates, law enforcement officials and others have sought to draw attention for years.

“We’ve had these wake-up calls for years, and all we ever do is push the snooze button,” said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

The federal system, in fact, contained only about 235,000 mental health records as of January 2006, even though it is estimated that as many as 2.7 million people have been involuntarily institutionalized nationwide.

“The biggest impediment is privacy relating to mental health records,” said Joey Hixenbaugh, a unit chief in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s criminal justice information systems division.

In 1998, Russell Weston barged into the United States Capitol and fatally shot two police officers. Mr. Weston had been involuntarily committed in Montana as a paranoid schizophrenic, but the authorities in Illinois, where he bought the gun, were unaware of that because privacy laws bar Montana from reporting those records to federal authorities.


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TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Front Page News; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: banglist; guncontrol; mentaldisorders; mentalhealth
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To: Redcloak
It has never been the tradition in the US that mental defectives have rights under the 2nd Amendment.

Is there any basis in the Constitution for denying rights to a particular class of free citizens? It seems that with regard to this argument there should be two classes of individuals: those who pose a greater-than-average threat of committing violence, as judged by past behavior; and those who don't. The first group can be further subdivided into the sane and the criminally insane, but in either case they belong off the streets. As for everyone else, the Constitution should apply as written.

It is wrong to assume that anyone labeled with the broad brush of "mentally defective" is going to go berserk and start shooting people. Are we going to deny someone his rights on the basis of low self-esteem, bulimia, or a learning disability? On the positive side, this law would mean no armed body guard for Rosie O'Donnell!

21 posted on 05/02/2007 4:49:28 PM PDT by Tabi Katz
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To: Tabi Katz

One more thought: In the past, homosexuality was viewed as a mental defect. I wonder how a “no guns for gays” law would sit with liberals ;-)

22 posted on 05/02/2007 4:52:01 PM PDT by Tabi Katz
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