Gun Reform’s Not Dead, Just Napping, Taking Baby Steps

The administration on Friday introduced two new actions to strengthen federal background checks.

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 02: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about AIDS during a World AIDS Day event in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, December 2, 2013 in Washington, DC. On the 25th anniversary of World AIDS Day, President Obama announced that funding to prevent AIDS will be increased by 100 million dollars. 
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Lucia Graves
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Lucia Graves
Jan. 3, 2014, 9:21 a.m.

After gun-con­trol le­gis­la­tion failed loudly in the wake of the New­town shoot­ing, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion set to work, pree­mpt­ing Con­gres­sion­al grid­lock with ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tions on dozens of gun-con­trol ini­ti­at­ives. Today we can add two more to the list.

The Justice De­part­ment is out with an ini­ti­at­ive to cla­ri­fy who’s pro­hib­ited from pos­sess­ing a fire­arm un­der fed­er­al law for men­tal-health-re­lated reas­ons. Spe­cific­ally, any­one in­vol­un­tar­ily com­mit­ted to a men­tal in­sti­tu­tion, either in­pa­tient or out­pa­tient, should be des­ig­nated as such, a pro­pos­al meant to help states de­term­ine who should be barred from hav­ing guns.

The oth­er, pro­posed by the Health and Hu­man Ser­vices De­part­ment, would al­low states to sub­mit “the lim­ited in­form­a­tion ne­ces­sary to help keep guns out of po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous hands” to the fed­er­al back­ground-check sys­tem, cir­cum­vent­ing ex­is­it­ing pri­vacy pro­vi­sions un­der a law known as HIPPA.

“Too many Amer­ic­ans have been severely in­jured or lost their lives as a res­ult of gun vi­ol­ence,” the White House said in a state­ment. “While the vast ma­jor­ity of Amer­ic­ans who ex­per­i­ence a men­tal ill­ness are not vi­ol­ent, in some cases when per­sons with a men­tal ill­ness do not re­ceive the treat­ment they need, the res­ult can be tra­gedies such as hom­icide or sui­cide.”

Oth­er ini­ti­at­ives in­tro­duced by the ad­min­is­tra­tion in the last year in­clude rules to bet­ter pre­pare loc­al law en­force­ment and schools, re­spond to shoot­ings, and keep guns out of the hands of felons.

The White House has noted that ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tions alone can’t take the place of com­pre­hens­ive le­gis­la­tion, but giv­en the fail­ure of the ex­pan­ded-back­ground-check bill in April and the re­new­al of the Un­detect­able Fire­arms Act this winter, ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion seems like the best path for­ward for now.

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