4 Jan 2014

New gun control checks on mentally ill proposed

12:58 pm on 4 January 2014

The Obama administration on Friday proposed new gun control regulations aimed at clarifying restrictions on gun ownership for the mentally ill and strengthening a database used for background checks before firearm purchases.

The measures are the latest steps to tighten gun laws in the United States since a school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children were killed in December 2012.

President Barack Obama tried last year to introduce new gun control measures, but most of his proposals were defeated in Congress.

The latest proposal by the Department of Justice, would clarify who is prohibited from possessing firearms because of mental illness and would outline for states what information can be shared with the federal database.

Public comment will be sought over the next 90 days about whether the ban should include people under the age of 18 who were either adjudicated by a court to be suffering from a serious mental illness, or who were involuntarily treated for a mental illness.

The other measure by the Department of Health & Human Services, would remove barriers that could prevent states from passing on information to the database.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), is used by gun dealers to check whether a potential buyer is prohibited from owning a gun.

States are encouraged to report to the database the names of people who are not allowed to buy guns because they have been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital, or have been found to have serious mental illnesses by courts.

But many states do not participate.

Mental health agencies fear that people with mental illnesses will not seek care because of concern that their conditions will be entered into federal records.