Congress may be in a state of paralysis when it comes to dealing with gun violence, but the White House inched forward Friday with two new executive actions aimed at boosting the federal background-check system.
According to materials provided by the White House, some states have raised concerns about ambiguous wording that makes it difficult to determine who should be barred from purchasing a gun. The first proposed rule change, by the Department of Justice, expands the definition of the statutory term "committed to a mental institution" to clarify that the prohibition on firearms purchases applies to people subjected to involuntary outpatient as well as inpatient commitments.
The rule also clarifies that “adjudicated as a mental defective” and “committed to a mental institution” include persons who are found incompetent to stand trial or not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect; persons lacking mental responsibility or deemed insane; and persons found guilty but mentally ill, regardless of whether these determinations are made by a state, local, federal or military court.
“We are taking an important, commonsense step to clarify the federal firearms regulations, which will strengthen our ability to keep dangerous weapons out of the wrong hands,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. “This step will provide clear guidance on who is prohibited from possessing firearms under federal law for reasons related to mental health, enabling America’s brave law enforcement and public safety officials to better protect the American people and ensure the safety of our homes and communities."