Obama Administration’s Two Quiet New Executive Actions on Who Can Buy a Gun

After failing to strengthen background checks on gun buyers through Congress, the Obama administration on Friday announced pending executive action on the matter focused mainly on mental health issues that would allow the government to get around certain privacy laws on the books in order to obtain more information.

The new restrictions would take the form of regulations from the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the regulations would seek to gain information previously withheld because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPPA, which protects medical privacy.

“Too many Americans have been severely injured or lost their lives as a result of gun violence,” a White House release said Friday. “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.”

The administration’s Friday post-holiday announcement came while President Barack Obama was still on vacation in Hawaii, in stark contrast to Obama’s first executive actions on guns, which were announced in a White House ceremony. “Friday news dump” announcements have also traditionally been used to try to avoid media scrutiny.

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