U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, released the following statement Friday on the Obama Administration’s announcement of two new executive actions to strengthen the federal background check system.
Thompson is chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.
“These important executive actions will strengthen our criminal background check system and go a long way towards helping make sure guns don’t get into the wrong hands,” Thompson said.
“The evidence shows background checks work when they are used," he added. "Last year, background checks identified and denied 88,000 sales to prohibited purchasers at licensed dealers.
"However, there is no way of knowing if those 88,000 prohibited purchasers, after being denied at a licensed dealer, then bought a gun at a gun show or over the Internet with no questions asked," he said. "This is a huge loophole that costs lives, and that’s why we need to pass my bipartisan background check bill expanding comprehensive and enforceable criminal background checks to cover commercial firearm sales such as those at gun shows and over the Internet.”
The two announced executive actions will help make sure better and more reliable information makes its way into the background check system.
The first executive action involves a proposed rule issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to clarify terminology used by federal law to prohibit people from purchasing a firearm for certain mental health reasons. Many states have noted current terminology is ambiguous.
The second executive action involves a proposed regulation issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to address barriers preventing states from submitting limited information on individuals prohibited from purchasing a firearm for mental health reasons to the federal background check system.
Some states have said that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s (HIPAA) privacy provisions may be preventing them from making relevant information available to the federal background check system.
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
Thompson and U.S. Rep. Pete King (R-NY) are co-authors of H.R. 1565, bipartisan legislation to expand the current background check system to all commercial gun sales. Joining them are original co-authors Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Pat Meehan (R-PA), Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and Peter Defazio (D-OR).