Blocked by Congress from expanding gun sale background checks, President Obama is turning to actions within his own power to keep people from buying a gun who are prohibited for mental health reasons.
Federal law bans certain mentally ill people from purchasing firearms, but not all states are providing data to stop the prohibited sales to the FBI's background check system. A federal review last year found 17 states contributed fewer than 10 mental health records to the database, meaning many deemed by a judge to be a danger still could have access to guns.
The Obama administration was starting a process Friday aimed at removing barriers in health privacy laws that prevent some states from reporting information to the background check system. The action comes two days after the Senate rejected a measure that would have required buyers of firearms online and at gun shows to pass a background check. That's already required for shoppers at licensed gun dealers.
Stung by the defeat, Obama vowed to keep up the fight for the background check expansion but also to do what he could through executive action.
"Even without Congress, my administration will keep doing everything it can to protect more of our communities," Obama said from the Rose Garden shortly after the Senate voted. "We're going to address the barriers that prevent states from participating in the existing background check system."
Obama also mentioned giving law enforcement more information about lost and stolen guns and establishing emergency plans for schools. Those measures were among the 23 executive actions the president signed in January when he announced his broader push for tighter gun laws in response to a mass shooting of first-graders and staff at Newtown, Conn.'s Sandy Hook Elementary School.
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