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Unclear privacy laws hinder violence prevention: US government report

[JURIST] A joint report [PDF text] delivered to President George W. Bush Wednesday by the US Department of Health and Human Services, the US Department of Education, and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official websites] on the ability of state and local officials to prevent community violence - including school shootings - has found that educational, health, and law enforcement workers don't understand privacy laws, a problem that inhibits efficient information sharing between agencies. The report also found that states do not uniformly report the names of individuals prohibited from possessing firearms to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) [FBI backgrounder]. The report recommends federal action be taken to clarify privacy laws for individuals, and that the DOJ act to encourage the uniform reporting of information to NICS. Bush had requested the report in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings [JURIST news archive] in April, which left 32 students and faculty dead. The New York Times has more.

Also on Wednesday, the US House of Representatives passed the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007, which closes a loophole [JURIST reports] that allowed Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho [Wikipedia profile] to purchase firearms despite a court order [text] for psychiatric treatment. The bill mandates improvements in state reporting to the NICS, making record sharing automatic.

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