Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Obama at the Gun Rack

The lead editorial from tomorrow's Wall Street Journal:
President Obama isn't one to shy away from policy ambition, so it was telling on Thursday that he thought it necessary to caution that "there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely" when he wheeled out his vast gun-control agenda. Some of the new laws he desires are reasonable and may do modest good. Others are counterproductive or unworkable in practice or legally dubious, sometimes all three.

After Newtown, the most important policy goal ought to be keeping firearms away from the mentally unstable and other people who pose a danger to society. There Mr. Obama moved the needle by appealing for better mental health care, even if it seemed like something of an afterthought. The gun-control lobby believes mass shootings and the broader matter of U.S. gun violence (which are not the same problem) can be solved by regulating firearms alone.

Mr. Obama's raft of suggestions was wise to focus on mentally troubled young people. Disorders of the mind and perhaps of brain chemistry usually manifest in adolescence or early adulthood, and the focus of a reformed system should be identifying them as sickness emerges. The Administration wants to fund a $75 million project to support innovative state programs to identify high-risk kids and train more mental health professionals specialized in treating youths.

A good place to start is Colorado, which is showing more restraint than Washington on guns and more wisdom on mental health. States that develop so-called assisted outpatient treatment laws and programs are showing progress in mitigating violence among the mentally ill.

It was also useful for Mr. Obama to mention the federal health privacy law known by the acronym Hipaa, even if he claimed that there was "confusion" about what it requires. There is no such confusion. Hipaa's onerous mandates often prevent health-care providers and college counsellors from communicating with each other and law enforcement about troubled patients, which Congress would be wise to relax and reform.
Continue reading.