A few weeks ago on January 3rd, 2014, the Obama administration quietly announced two new executive orders regarding gun control policy. With these pronouncements President Obama, after failing to gain public support, and a failed attempt to push legislation through Congress, has made absolutely clear his intention of now unilaterally imposing his gun control mandates.
These new executive orders would allow the federal database access to mental health records by offering an exemption to existing laws that protect patient privacy, essentially overriding the Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy rule protections, in place for individual’s medical records.
States that were once required by law to protect personal medical information will now be required to submit their patient’s private and confidential records into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
These types of provisions are likely to draw fire from constitutionalists as well as gun rights activists who respectively note that the Second and Fourth Amendments offer no such exceptions, but simply state that the right to keep and bear arms “shall not be infringed”, and that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated”.
The justification for these blatant privacy rights violations are, “an express permission to submit to the background check system the limited information necessary to help keep guns out of potentially dangerous hands,” according to the White House statement.
The executive order claims to “clarify”, that citizens that are involuntarily committed to inpatient or outpatient facilities can be prohibited from owning a firearm. To allay concerns, the administration goes on to state that seeking help for mental health issues doesn’t prohibit a person from firearm ownership. The White House states, “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”.
Unfortunately, even prior to the executive orders currently applied, we have already seen government deceptively utilize this specific tactic to revoke legitimate gun ownership without due process.
Following the passage of the NY SAFE Act, New York gun owners were sent letters from the N.Y.P.D. demanding them to surrender their guns which have feeding capacities that violate the 5-round rule. Other gun owners in New York have had their fully legal firearms confiscated, after medical records, which detailed prescriptions, were shared with authorities. At the time, this was in direct violation of HIPAA as it was prior to the recent executive order and would seemingly have civil rights implications. The law is being applied and enforced as such, that being on anti-depressants or anxiety medication is reason to enough to revoke your Second Amendment rights without any recourse or due process of law.
In another recent case a Pennsylvania State Superior Court ruled that a state trooper who had 7 years earlier been hospitalized for depression wouldn’t be allowed to own a firearm off-duty, but would be allowed to carry a firearm while on-duty.
Judge Kate Ford Elliott declared, “A present clean bill of health is no guarantee that a relapse is not possible.” The Superior Court found there is no way for Keyes to have the record of his involuntary mental health commitment expunged. That means Keyes can never surmount the federal ban on his having a gun off-duty. She went on to state, “We see an important government interest in controlling the availability of firearms for those who have ever been adjudged mentally defective or have ever been committed to a mental institution but are now deemed to be cured.”
The biggest irony comes from the fact that Elliott also ruled that Keyes should still be allowed to have a firearm while on-duty as a state trooper, with the implication that government officials have special status above that of private citizens.
Both the media and administration’s explicit failure to consider these numerous abuses, systematically justified by the accessing of private mental health records, reveals a model of how these executive orders will most likely be carried out. With the façade of a mental health fix, the same power structures that pushed dangerous prescription drugs onto an unassuming American public will now use them against law-abiding Americans to usurp their constitutional guarantees.
Many fear, and rightly so, that these new rules targeting those with mental health issues might serve as a very slippery slope as such rules open the door for the federal government to decide who is “mentally healthy” enough to own a firearm, using metrics such as what medications one takes to base decisions on, similarly to what we have seen take place in New York since the NY SAFE Act went into effect.
The ever-increasing number of cases in which law-abiding citizens are being stripped of their constitutional rights without due process is alarming. With the destruction of privacy protections and increased scrutiny for those who have been committed to receive help, or who even get a prescription for anxiety medication, many citizens will likely become extremely reluctant to seek any type of mental health help due to the danger of having their Second Amendment rights revoked.
Should citizens be stripped of their Second Amendment rights under the Constitution simply because they are prescribed a medication for anxiety or mild depression by a licensed medical professional, due to state legislation or an executive order by a President? That is what is happening in NY, and if any indication, most likely what is coming down the pipe nationally with this executive order.