Part of Obama’s executive orders would require that the mental health records of gun applicants be provided to the federal government. While the magnitude of the sharing process is unclear, the concept is frightening because of the potential misuse of such data by the government, and because such measures threaten the overall privacy concerns of patients and their mental health experts. The treatment of mental illness depends heavily upon an honest exchange of personal information between the patient and their therapists. Laws that impede the fluidity of this exchange can defeat the process. A potential candidate for mental health assistance, who believes that his personal data is subject to government inspection, would likely think twice before seeking treatment. The result is that he or she would avoid treatment altogether, or at a minimum, dilute or omit information that would be helpful to the treatment process. Requiring state’s to provide this type of mental health data to the federal government is clearly counterintuitive to the stated mission of ending gun violence. We strongly support spending more money on mental health research and treatment. However, the critical privileges between patients and their mental health experts must not be infringed.
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