White House takes two executive actions on gun background checks

The White House announced Friday that it is taking a pair of executive actions to prevent guns from falling into the hands of the dangerously mentally ill.

The administration said that the Department of Justice will propose a regulation to codify who is not allowed to possess again for mental health reasons. It also said that the Department of Health and Human Services is proposing a regulation that would address barriers that don't allow states to share information about mentally ill people with the federal background check system.

A series of mass shootings in recent years have been traced to mentally ill shooters who the system failed to properly treat or identify.

The White House says states often complain that federal law isn't clear enough when it comes to who is prohibited from gun ownership and also that they aren't allowed to share information about mentally ill people because of privacy laws, most notably the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

"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. "The administration also continues to call on Congress to pass common-sense gun safety legislation and to expand funding to increase access to mental health services.

Congress earlier this year failed to pass new background check legislation, despite a push from the White House after the deaths of 26 in a mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

In making the executive actions, the White House again pressed Congress to pass new gun control legislation.

Updated at 2:08 p.m.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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