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Obama tweaks firearm access rules

HONOLULU — The Obama administration announced a pair of executive actions on Friday 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 on mental health criteria used by federal law to prohibit people from purchasing a firearm. The administration said states have complained some wording is ambiguous, making it difficult to determine who should be blocked.

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The change also will help states determine what information may be shared with the federal background check system for firearms transfers. The system has prevented more than 2 million guns from falling into the wrong hands, the Justice Department said.

A second proposed rule change would give hospitals and other entities covered by patient privacy provisions more flexibility in the information they provide to the background check system. However, the administration said the rule change would not require reporting on general mental health care or legally prohibit someone from having a firearm solely because they sought treatment.

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