Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Obama Calls for Tighter Background Checks, More MH Funding to Cut Gun Deaths

President Barack Obama this morning announced several executive actions intended to reduce gun violence in the United States. The steps included tightening requirements for background checks for gun purchasers while upgrading the background system, better enforcement of existing gun laws, more research on gun safety technology, and an added focus on domestic violence.

Obama also called for an additional $500 million to increase access to mental health treatment, noting that the majority of gun deaths were suicides.

“Gun violence is a public health problem and needs to be addressed as such,” said APA President RenĂ©e Binder, M.D., in a statement. “We welcome the announcement from President Obama to make needed investments in mental health and curb the epidemic of gun violence in our country.”

The administration issued a final rule today governing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) to permit certain hospitals and state agencies to report individuals under specific circumstances to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). 

In a letter to members of APA’s Board of Trustees and Assembly, APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., said, “It is APA's sense that the final HIPAA/NICS rule released today is well balanced and addresses our previously articulated major concern regarding the need to preserve privacy, incentivize treatment, and prevent any federal law or regulation that ... would require or permit psychiatrists to report their patients directly to NICS or any other federal database.”

For more in Psychiatric News about reducing gun violence, see “Gun Violence Reduction Possible With Combined, Varied Actions.” Also see the new book Gun Violence and Mental Illness from American Psychiatric Association Publishing edited by Liza H. Gold, M.D., and Robert I. Simon, M.D.

(Image: Olivier Douliery/Sipa USA [Sipa via AP Images])


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