Va. Tech Shooting: Privacy Laws Are Inhibiting Gun Control Legislation


Va. Tech Shooting: Privacy Laws Are Inhibiting Gun Control Legislation


<a href="">Ann Clemmons</a>
May 03, 2007

Cho Seung-Hui a tormented young man, already exhibiting crazed behavior, ignored the advice of a teacher, slipped through a mental health care facility, conned campus police, and bought two firearms. Teachers, students, and law enforcement personnel were not able to prevent this tragic event. It seems many people, agencies, and family members were aware of the fact that Cho Seung was "troubled" however, due to the so-called protection of privacy laws; they were unable to help him.

Privacy laws are inhibiting gun control legislation. There is now a bill before congress promoting states to report mental health records to the national database used to conduct background checks on people buying guns. Already federal law prohibits anyone involuntarily admitted as a "mental defective" from purchasing a firearm. However, only twenty-two states provide mental health records to the National Criminal Background Check System. At present, the National Criminal Background Check System, screens people before they can purchase a firearm. However, if states are not required to push mental health care facilities to provide mental health records, for all persons including voluntary commitments, what good is the law doing anyone?

This problem has been going on for years, and gun control advocates, special interest groups, and law enforcement officials have been trying to shed light on the this unpredictable reporting. However, the biggest obstacle has been the privacy law in relation to mental health care records. Evidently, if you are voluntarily committed to a mental health care facility, privacy laws prohibit the facility from reporting your time there.

If Virginia, had required mental health care facilities, to report voluntary records to the National Criminal Background Check, the people who died that day at Va. Tech., would still be alive. Cho Seung-Hui would not have been able to purchase the two firearms that killed thirty-three people, including him. Meaning, Virginia only reported involuntary commitments. Moreover, we do not know for sure when someone approaches the counter in a store, to purchase a firearm, if they have or have not threatened to harm themselves or others. We are in the dark as to whether they have or have not spent time in a mental institution.

In the case of Cho Seung-Hui he had voluntarily gone to St Alban&#39;s, after his involvement in two prior incidents with the police involving two female students. However, since Virginia did not require mental health care facilities too report voluntary commitments, Cho Seung-Hui was able to purchase two firearms. Therefore, someone who rattled off incoherent babble on a video tape, and then sent it to NBC was able to buy not one, but two guns! In fact, after the shootings police investigators were unable to get information about his mental health status, all due to the privacy act. It is no wonder that Cho Seung Hui shared the same characteristics as other school shooters. Privacy laws prevented these characteristics from becoming available to the proper authorities before the shootings took place.

What senseless acts, especially at a time of war, when we are already losing scores of human lives.

After Cho Seung gunned down two people, crossed the street into a classroom, bolted the door to keep help out, and fired two firearms into his fellow students, reaction around the world was that of sadness and outrage. Thirty-three students died that day, including Cho Seung Hui. When are we going to wake up? There are American kids across the world battling terrorism, and more are killed right here in our back yard, due to the American people&#39;s debate over gun control.

Since the first report of this shooting, we have heard urging from other nations on the need for reforming Americas gun control laws, and self -defensive attitude. By not implementing some changes in American policy and culture, we will earn more than the right to bear arms. We will also earn the right to bear unspeakable pain and sorrow, consequences that follow the lack of proper procedures in place to protect our citizens from the improper use of firearms.


Original Source: Ground Report
<a href=""></a>

This work is licensed under a <a href="">Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License</a>.


Ann Clemmons




Brent Jesiek


Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License




Ann Clemmons, “Va. Tech Shooting: Privacy Laws Are Inhibiting Gun Control Legislation,” The April 16 Archive, accessed July 16, 2024,