Columbine, Newtown, Virginia Tech, Aurora: A strong case for HIPAA reform

Antidepressants are a prescription for violence. HIPAA prevents the ATF from having this information when allowing a firearms sale.

WASHINGTON, DC, December 17, 2012 ― The recent shooting deaths of 28 people in Newtown, Connecticut is only the latest in a long line of violent episodes that all share a common denominator: Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor, more commonly referred to as SSRI, is overwhelmingly a part of the story in these cases.

These are cases where a person who you never would have guessed would do such a thing commits mass murder.

The list of tragedies at schools alone is staggering; the list of suicides you never hear about is much, much longer. Suicides and deadly violence from children as young as eight years old, all diagnosed with a mental disorder of some type and all on SSRIs, have become more common.

Blacksburg, Virginia: In April, 2007 Seung-Hui Cho, a patient for mental illness, purchased a 9mm Glock 19 and a .22-caliber pistol. HIPAA laws protecting his patient information prevented any flags from coming up when he made those purchases.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is essentially a digital version of the old fashioned background check which was performed during a waiting period. Being ill and medicated is of course not a crime, so no flags are raised there.

On April 16, 2007, Cho killed 32 people, including himself, injuring an additional 17 in the process.

There is a strong case for a modification to the HIPAA laws. As anyone who purchases a firearm knows, part of the process is that the retailer will place a call to the ATF (Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms), which performs the instant criminal background check, providing the retailer with a yes or no answer in permitting the sale.

The NICS should be supplemented by a medical background check. This check would not reveal any private information, but merely raise a flag from the buyer’s doctor, who would make a database entry at the time of diagnosis and/or prescription of drugs that have been proven to cause violent or suicidal thoughts and tendencies.

There should be additional restrictions. If a member of your household is flagged for being a potential threat due to a diagnosis of mental illness, steps must be taken to ensure that the accessibility of the firearms to that person be absolutely prohibited.

I am a firm believer in the Constitution. Americans have a right to keep and bear arms. Reducing the magazine size and banning weapons that look scary, but in function are no different than an average hunting rifle, will do nothing.

Senator Dianne Feinstein has no idea what to do about this, but being who she is, a call for a gun ban was certainly a safe bet.

We hear again and again after tragedies like Newtown, “how could anyone do this?” The answer is simple; no one in their right mind can do this. The data linking these drugs to violence is indisputable. The infrastructure to add this check to the firearms purchasing process is in place.

The law is already in place which clearly prohibits the sale of firearms to those not mentally stable enough to own firearms. We simply have no means by which to enforce it under current patient privacy laws.

In the coming days you will hear many “solutions,” which may work in a fantasy world – remove all guns from society, bring morality back to our country, or even arm all the teachers. These solutions are just that; fantasy. The partisan divide would never allow such extreme actions to be taken unless, perhaps, the violence got bad enough and we felt there was no other way to curb it. And there is another way.

Will changes to HIPAA stop these heinous crimes entirely? Of course not, but Seung-Hui Cho would not have been able to purchase the weapons he did, and Nancy Lanza would have been legally required to ensure that her son never had access to her firearms.

The real issue in all this is the drugs themselves, and if you take the time to look into the horrors they bring into the lives of Americans every day, you will be appalled and saddened even further than we have by recent events. But getting rid of those would mean taking on Big-Pharma America, which is an even more fantastical proposition than making all the guns on the planet just suddenly go away.

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Mike Shortridge

Mike is a former Marine who served in the Middle East. He is disgusted with both the Republican and Democratic parties, seeing them as two heads of the same beast. He writes from the conservative perspective, with a focus on making complex subjects easy to understand.


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