GOA Submits Comments Opposing Backdoor Gun Control Efforts by HHS

GOA Submits Comments Opposing Backdoor Gun Control Efforts by HHS

RE:  HIPAA Privacy Rule and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)

As a Second Amendment organization representing 375,000 members, we are writing to express our concern over HHS’ proposed rule that was printed in the April 23rd, 2013 issue of the Federal Register.

These regulations would, by executive fiat, waive all federal privacy laws and encourage doctors to report their patients to the FBI.

Please understand a couple of things:  First, the standard which a doctor would use to turn in a patient is embodied in Clinton-era ATF language and in the anti-gun Veterans Disarmament Act of 2007. Specifically, a doctor would report a patient if he suspected he or she was even a slight "danger to himself of others" or was "unable to manage his financial affairs."

So if a doctor says his patient can’t balance his checkbook, then he loses his constitutional rights.

But there's another problem:  The day these regulations become law, lawyers will be lining up to sue "deep-pocket" psychiatrists for every case where they failed to turn in a patient to NICS -- if the patient subsequently engages in a horrific act.

The bottom line?  Any psychiatrist who failed to report all of his patients to the NICS system risks losing everything if any of them engages in harmful conduct.  Soon the rule of thumb will be: “See a shrink; lose your guns.”  

These regulations will apply to private, as well as government-employed psychiatrists. And this will only discourage people from getting the very help they need.


The bad news is that more than 150,000 military veterans -- perhaps as many as 165,000 -- have already lost their gun rights because of the “see a VA shrink, lose your gun rights” precedent from the Clinton-Bush era.(1)


Consider the Florida military veteran who has made national news recently, after having his guns confiscated.  The veteran, who has simply been identified as “AB,” sought help for depression in December of 2012.  After calling Veteran’s Assistance, here is what happened:

Instead of giving him someone to talk to, VA called local police who came to AB’s home, had him involuntarily committed for a psychological evaluation. They also confiscated his firearms, ammo, bows, arrows and other objects they felt could be used as weapons.

 

AB was found to be mentally fit during this evaluation, but authorities still have refused to return his firearms, despite AB completing all needed paperwork and affidavits. Now authorities are saying they will require a court order in order to return the guns. This is obviously against the law and the source of the lawsuit.(2)


Sadly, what happened to military veterans has now begun in the private sector -- especially in places like New York, after they recently passed their misnamed SAFE Act.

According to gun rights reporter, Dan Roberts, firearms are now being confiscated from gun owners because of their mental health information. For example:

[John Doe] received a letter from the Pistol Permit Department informing him that his license was immediately revoked upon information that he was seeing a therapist for anxiety and had been prescribed an anxiety drug. He was never suicidal, never violent, and has no criminal history.(3)


So now taking anxiety pills can result in one’s forfeiting their Second Amendment rights in New York! Again, this is simply going to discourage people who need help from actually getting it.

Given the recent “finding” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that nearly 1 in 5 children in the U.S. suffers from a mental disorder,(4) the proposed HHS regulations seem like an opportunity for throwing hundreds of thousands -- if not millions -- of harmless, law-abiding citizens into the NICS system.

At a time when anti-gun activists on Capitol Hill have temporarily backed away from the vigorous pursuit of their gun control agenda, it is reprehensible that the administration would try and make an end-around Congress and devastate the Second Amendment through an unconstitutional, backdoor effort.

We would encourage you to back away from such an exercise.

Comments by Gun Owners of America Submitted to the Department of HHS Office of the Secretary 45 CFR Parts 160 and 164.

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(1) Statement by Senator Joe Manchin on April 15 and 17, 2013 in The Congressional Record.  See also Sen. Tom Coburn letter to Gordon H. Mansfield, Acting Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (Oct. 16, 2007) at:  http://www.gunowners.org/pdf/Coburnletter.pdf

(2) A news article describing the veteran’s ordeal with the VA can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/lrx4hrw. The legal brief related to this case can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/moug5xv.

(3) Dan Roberts, ”NY Gun Confiscation Underway -- Citizens Told to Turn in Pistol Owner ID & Firearms,” AmmoLand (April 8, 2013), at http://tinyurl.com/n4pxgdf.

(4) “CDC: 1 In 5 US Children May Have Mental Disorder,” CBS News (May 18, 2013), at http://tinyurl.com/lt7hasg.