When President Obama announced his executive order laying the groundwork for gun control regulations, many heaved a sigh of relief that it was not more stringent or far reaching. And it is true that he could have been much more direct and authoritarian, but that would have invited immediate legal challenges, so the initiative is more subtle, but devious none the less.
Obama just created a system that will grow and spread to the states, and it will have the ability to establish a gun registry and prohibit hundreds of thousands, even millions, from the ability to buy a gun. Obama opined that federal federal anti-gun legislation will not happen during his presidency, but his actions will have the same effect.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibits those who have been involuntarily committed or determined to be “mentally defective” from buying a gun. Subsequent legislation adds to the list “those who lack the mental capacity to contract or manage their own affairs,” even if that person does not represent a threat to anyone else. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) “mental defective file” currently includes about 150,000 individuals, including veterans who were not able to manage their own financial affairs. All of these individuals are precluded from owning a gun, even though there was no indication that they had a propensity for hurting someone.
Here is where Obama's proposal becomes dangerous. The practice of placing someone on this list was arbitrary and did not even allow a hearing, but the total number of individuals on the list was fairly small. As a result of the president's new orders, the Health and Human Services Department announced that it will modify the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and allow state health agencies to disclose personally identifiable information about “mentally defective” individuals directly to the NICS.