The Obama Administration appears to be testing the waters of public opinion as they announced two new executive orders concerning gun control on Friday. Though this administration has remained hostile to the issue of gun rights, the Obama Administration has maintained a hands-off approach for nearly a year as the fever-pitch for increased gun control laws has nationally faded from public discussion.
However, with the announcement of the two new executive orders, President Obama may be signaling that he’s willing to act unilaterally and, perhaps, unconstitutionally to create and implement gun control policies.
The Obama Administration announced the new executive orders that would allow the federal database access to mental health records by offering an exemption to existing privacy laws that protect patient privacy. Further, the executive orders “clarify” that citizens involuntarily committed to inpatient and outpatient facilities can be prohibited from firearm ownership.
Of course, such provisions are likely to rile gun rights advocates who note that the Second Amendment offers no such allowances, but only states that the right to keep and bear arms “shall not be infringed.”
The White House touted the results of President Obama’s executive actions concerning gun rights, 23 edicts issued last year, claiming that federal agencies have provided 1.2 million records identifying people who are unsuitable for gun ownership.
The Obama Administration claims that the new executive edicts will not go into effect until after sixty days of comments and discussion that begins next Tuesday, however the Obama Administration’s record for transparency has been increasingly poor in recent years.
The new rule concerning the circumvention of privacy laws will provide “an express permission to submit to the background check system the limited information necessary to help keep guns out of potentially dangerous hands,” the White House said.
However, with a two-prong attack on gun rights for those with perceived mental issues, many fear that new rules targeting those with mental health issues might serve as a slippery slope as such rules open the door for the federal government to decide who is mentally fit enough to open a firearm.
Further, with the loosening of privacy practices and the thickening of scrutiny for those who have been committed to receive help, some citizens might be hesitant to seek short-term mental health help if there is a danger of having their Second Amendment rights revoked.
The White House’s statement aimed to assuage such concerns by claiming, “The proposed rule will not change the fact that seeking help for mental health problems or getting treatment does not make someone legally prohibited from having a firearm. Furthermore, nothing in the proposed rule would require reporting on general mental health visits or other routine mental health care, or would exempt providers solely performing these treatment services from existing privacy rules.”
However, several high-profile instances have occurred in recent years in states with strict gun control oversight where law-abiding citizens have been stripped of their rights for a wide-range of mild psychological issues.
The move by the Obama Administration may signal a willingness to reignite the gun control debate at a time when Americans remain deeply divided on the issue. Though many favor stricter rules governing the right to keep and bear arms, the last push for federal gun control laws failed miserably amidst pushback from gun rights groups and concerned citizens.