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September 17, 2014

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Obama proposes firearm background check changes

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Susan Walsh / AP

President Barack Obama speaks during an end-of-the year news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, Friday, Dec. 20, 2013.

HONOLULU — The Obama administration is announcing a pair of executive actions aimed at strengthening federal background checks for gun purchasers, with a particular focus on limiting firearm access for those with mental health issues.

One proposed rule change aims to clarify terminology used by federal law to prohibit people from purchasing a firearm for mental health reasons. The administration says states have complained that some wording is ambiguous, making it difficult to determine who should be blocked from buying a weapon.

A second proposed rule change would allow entities covered by patient privacy provisions to submit additional information to the background check system. However, the administration says the rule change would not require reporting on general mental health care or legally prohibit someone from having a firearm solely for seeking treatment.

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