Expanded Mental Health Recording Raises Privacy, Gun Control Issues

By:  Bob Adelmann
Expanded Mental Health Recording Raises Privacy, Gun Control Issues

The dangers of expanding the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to include "mentally defective" individuals and requiring states to include everyone diagnosed as such is raising concerns over privacy and the eventual elimination of firearms from every American citizen.

As more of President Obama’s “Now is the Time” agenda announced in January is implemented, more and more concerns are being expressed over the impact on privacy and the right to own firearms. Said the president on January 16 following the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School: "We must strengthen efforts to keep guns from falling into the wrong hands … to make sure those who would commit acts of violence cannot get access to guns."

There are at least two major concerns about the president’s statement: Who defines “wrong hands” and how effective are predictions about persons “who would commit acts of violence” in advance of such acts? 

There are privacy concerns as well, as noted by Roberta Rampton, writing for Reuters: “Mental health advocates are worried that the privacy of people who have received treatment for their illnesses would be jeopardized.” They are also concerned that persons seeking treatment would be discouraged from disclosing their problems to professionals because such information could wind up in a government database. And further, such a listing might reasonably jeopardize their freedom to own firearms. As Daniel Fisher, who was treated for schizophrenia decades ago and is now a mental health advocate, noted:

I think it’s a bad idea. It would really put a chill on people getting services. They find it very scary — the idea of a national database that the government will keep [on them].

As Obama explained:

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