As the memory of Sandy Hook’s mass shooting fades, the Department of Health and Human Services early this month proposed to waive aspects of health privacy law to allow psychiatrists to report patients they believe too mentally unstable to own a gun.
The proposal would strengthen federal gun control by defining any clinical psychiatrist as a “lawful authority” whose recommendation based on private health communications might place a patient on the FBI’s blacklist for gun purchase covered by federal law. To date, more than 175,000 non-felonious veterans have been stripped of those gun rights upon recommendation from psychiatrists at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Whereas the Gun Control Act of 1968 required institutional authority to make such recommendations, Democrats in 2008 led by Sen. Charles Schumer, of New York, won a major shootout on Capitol Hill to enhance the government’s ability to conduct background checks on gun purchases covered by federal law, such as retail transactions. Now, individual clinicians may make such recommendations to the government based on hitherto for private health communications. Michael Hammond, writing in The Washington Times, warns that Obamacare may place more law-abiding gun owners at risk of losing their rights.
“Although the problem hasn’t yet been as apparent in other areas, police and firemen on Social Security disability for post-traumatic stress disorder, Medicare seniors with Alzheimer’s, and people who as children were diagnosed under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act program with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder will ultimately face the same fate,” he wrote. “Even a subsidized Obamacare policy might now make Americans participants in a federal program.”
Gun rights advocates object to the subjective nature of the reporting process, which places a low barrier for clinicians making those reports while providing the accused with little recourse beyond soliciting a second clinical opinion, and further waiving health privacy rights.
“Combine this with the fact that in some parts of the country, efforts are being made to coerce psychiatrists to report patients whom they suspect could pose a problem, and it’s clear where this is going: The “safe” course of action for psychiatrists, will be to report more of their patients to the government, rather than fewer,” Hammond wrote.
The gun control proposal comes a little more than a year after 20-year-old Adam Lanza massacred 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., before shooting himself in the head. With kindergarteners among the dead, the shooting was second-deadliest in U.S. history by a lone gunman.