As part of the Obama administration's efforts to enforce gun control, a key proposition to add mental health records to a national background check database has been vociferously opposed by medical groups. Many voice concern that adding people deemed "mentally unfit" to the national database would increase the stigma of mental illness and dissuade many from seeking help.

Also opposed by some state authorities, the administration proposed an amendment to a federal privacy rule that would allow mental health authorities to share records of people deemed mentally unfit with the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Unlike the Manchin-Toomey Bill to expand criminal and mental health background checks for gun purchases, which was defeated in the Senate in April, this amendment would be implemented by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and would not require congressional approval.

Mental health records, along with other health information, are protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPPA), which makes it illegal for healthcare providers to share information without authorization from a patient .

In a letter to the HHS, the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors denounced the plan, fearing that people suffering from mental illness would not seek help for their problems as a result. The proposal would only "exacerbate the stigma faced by people with mental illnesses."

The American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, and the American Psychological Association also expressed similar concerns in separate letters to HHS.

Patients affected by the amendment would most likely be those committed to treatment involuntarily. In many states, doctors, sometimes in conjunction with mental health courts, have the authority to commit patients to treatment if there is reason to believe they are a danger to themselves or others, or unable to care for themselves. The authority is frequently used to commit potentially suicidal patients. However, these commitments may be implemented without due process, bringing into question whether they should be shared with the FBI, or can be used in order to disqualify someone from purchasing a gun.

In the wake of the Newtown, Conn. shooting that resulted in the deaths of 20 children and eight adults, the White House proposed increasing the number of mental health records as part of a broader agenda to reduce gun violence. Many of the proposals apply to the health care world, including an affirmation of the rights of medical professionals to ask about gun ownership and lifting the ban on using federal money for gun violence research.

Media speculation went unchecked over whether gunman Adam Lanza's diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder characterized by difficulties in social interactions and restricted interests, led to the violent act.

Given the brutality of the shootings, public reaction understandably focuses on keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. But even if the proposed rule takes effect, someone with Adam Lanza's background of Asperger's syndrome and no criminal record, would still be able to purchase a gun. And notably, Lanza didn't even purchase the gun he used to kill 28 people himself, but instead used his mother's.

The relationship between violence and mental illness should be scrutinized.

"Substantial research shows that the vast majority of people with serious mental illnesses never act violently, and the vast majority of violent crimes — 96 percent by the best available estimate — are not perpetrated by persons with mental disorders," said Dr. Paul Appelbaum, past president of the American Psychiatric Association. "Nearly two-thirds of firearm deaths are suicides and about one-third are homicides."

Many of the aforementioned professional organizations commended the Obama administration's other proposals, including increased criminal background checks, more public health research on gun violence, and most saliently, increasing access to mental health services. The question is whether sharing mental health records with the FBI would actually reduce gun violence, or simply dissuade the future Adam Lanzas of the world from seeking the help they desperately need.