Attorney General Eric Holder and the U.S. Justice Department on Friday quietly proposed a regulation that will clarify what mental health reasons can be employed under federal law to prohibit citizens from receiving, possessing, shipping or transporting firearms.
According to officials at the Justice Department, this clarification will direct U.S. states and territories in determining what information they should share with the federal background check system known as the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
The stated goal is to keep guns out of the hands of individuals who may be a danger to themselves or others. However, the regulation’s language, as with many of the regulations and laws coming out of the Obama Administration, leaves room for interpretation.
“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,” said the controversial – some say ultra-political -- Attorney General Holder.
“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. And it is emblematic of the Justice Department’s broader commitment to use every tool and resource at its disposal to combat gun violence and prevent future tragedies while respecting the Constitutional rights to which all Americans are entitled,” Holder announced on Friday.
The revised definition clarifies that the statutory terms “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. The proposed regulation also clarifies that the statutory term includes a person committed to involuntary inpatient or outpatient treatment.
“While the regulation on the surface may sound reasonable, it does leave former military personnel returning from the battlefield who are diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and are psychiatrically treated for PTSD, very likely in the lurch when it comes to purchasing firearms for protection or sport,” said former Marine and police detective Sidney Franes.
“It may also be used to deny retired law-enforcement, security and intelligence officials access to firearms if at any time they underwent rehabilitation for alcoholism or substance abuse,” Franes added.
The Justice Department places the NICS background check system in high regard calling it a “critical tool in keeping guns out of the hands of those who cannot legally have one.”
One of the problems many gun owners see in this legislation is the role of an agency caught up in a firearms-smuggling scandal.
The existing regulations regarding NICS background checks stipulates that the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) will regulate steps the Justice Department has taken to keep guns out of the wrong hands.
While Holder and his underlings claim the ATF is working diligently to reduce gun violence and is committed to using every tool at its disposal, including implementing effective prevention, enforcement and re-entry strategies, many Americans are unwilling to forget Operation Fast and Furious, an ATF program that in essence armed Mexican drug cartels and may have contributed to the killing of two American law enforcement officers.
“The fact that not only did the ATF and [Attorney General] Holder stonewall the investigation into the gun-control snafu that many believe was designed to blame Americans for the violence in Mexico, they also allegedly lied to the U.S. Congress,” former police officer Iris Aquino told the Examiner.
“The idea that Holder and the ATF are given such authority over Americans’ Second Amendment rights has reached the level of absurdity,” she said.