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Thompson lauds moves to strengthen gun background checks

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Recent moves by President Barack Obama to bolster background checks will help keep firearms out of the hands of criminals, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, said Friday.

In a statement, the congressman – Democratic chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force – said two new executive actions made by the Obama Administration “will strengthen our criminal background check system and go a long way toward helping make sure guns don’t get into the wrong hands.”

The first executive action clarifies terminology used by federal law to prohibit people from purchasing a firearm for certain mental health reasons. The second addresses a concern by some states that passing along mental health information to a federal database violates privacy rights. The executive action seeks to facilitate better sharing of information.

According to Thompson’s office, the second action “will not change the fact that seeking help for mental health problems or getting treatment does not make someone legally prohibited from having a firearm. Furthermore, nothing in the proposed rule would require reporting on general mental health visits or other routine mental health care.”

Thompson, who represents Sonoma, said background checks prevented 88,000 gun sales to prohibited purchasers at licensed dealers last year. But he went on to say that “there is no way of knowing if those 88,000 prohibited purchasers, after being denied at a licensed dealer, then bought a gun at a gun show or over the Internet with no questions asked.”

He said this loophole “costs lives,” and he called on Congress to pass a bill expanding criminal background checks to include firearms purchased at gun shows and over the Internet. Thompson is co-author with Rep. Pete King, R-New York, of H.R. 1565, a bill to expand the background check system to all commercial gun sales.