Federal law might stymie checks on weapons permit seekers

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A requirement to check the mental health status of applicants for concealed gun permits in Ohio has hit a snag: a new federal privacy law may not permit it.

Checking mental records would require hospitals to share information that is confidential under the federal law.

The Ohio attorney general's office is researching how to get around the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Applicants who have been committed, involuntarily or voluntarily, to a mental institution are disqualified under Ohio's new gun permit law, which takes effect April 8.

Even if applicants voluntarily waived their rights under the federal law, mental hospitals still may not be permitted to release the information, said James Canepa, chief deputy attorney general.

Sheriff's offices may have to rely on checking court records to see if applicants were involuntarily committed to mental hospitals, he said.

The attorney general's office wants to have a database of mental competency cases so they are easily checked, Canepa said.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)