President Barack Obama has begun 2014 by following up on a vow he made in 2013—to further strengthen gun control.
Obama failed in 2013 to win enough support in the U.S. Congress for tougher background checks for gun purchases and new limits on assault weapons. Obama said his proposed changes were among his highest priorities in the wake of the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. When legislation failed, Obama said he would do "whatever it takes" to bring new controls and issued 25 executive orders intended to tighten rules for gun ownership.
And on Jan. 3, while still on vacation in Hawaii, Obama proposed two new regulations aimed at clarifying restrictions on gun ownership for the mentally ill and strengthening a database used for background checks before firearm purchases.
The first action, proposed by the Department of Justice that will not require Congressional approval, 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.
The department will seek public comment over the next 90 days about whether the ban should encompass 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 second measure, led by the Department of Health and Human Services, would remove barriers that could prevent states from passing on information to the database.
"The administration's two new executive actions will help ensure that better and more reliable information makes its way into the background check system," the White House said in a statement on Friday.
Mental health advocates have expressed some concern that somehow, whether intentionally by a hacker or unintentionally through bureaucratic bungling, mental health data could be made public.