NH to share mental health info for background checks

Jul 11, 2016

BY: Citizens Count

The New Hampshire Attorney General is interpreting state law in a way that requires courts to share information about mental illness with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

Attorney General Joe Foster based his decision on a little-known amendment to this year’s Medicaid expansion bill, HB 1696.  The amendment states:

“No person, organization, department, or agency shall submit the name of any person to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) on the basis that the person has been adjudicated a ‘mental defective’ or has been committed to a mental institution, except pursuant to a court order issued following a hearing in which the person participated and was represented by an attorney.”

Foster interpreted this amendment to mean that the state should notify NICS:

  • When an individual is involuntarily committed to a mental health facility
  • When an individual is found not guilty by reason of insanity
  • When an individual is found incompetent to stand trial and subsequently ordered to a mental health facility

Until now New Hampshire has shared no information with NICS about mental health.

“In keeping with the federal law, this policy does not apply to the vast majority of people who experience mental illness, and we remain committed to preventing the stigmatization of those with mental illness and helping them access appropriate treatment,” said Gov. Maggie Hassan. “At the same time, this common-sense step will help prevent those who are a danger to themselves or others from purchasing firearms, strengthening public safety.” 

Rep. JR Hoell, who sponsored the amendment, says he had the opposite intent of Foster’s ruling.  Hoell aimed to require a court hearing before sending any information to NICS.

“They just want to send names to NICS. That’s wrong. We never wanted to treat the disabled that way,” said Hoell.  

Other opponents are concerned that this interpretation does not allow individuals who are no longer mentally ill to remove their information from NICS.

Do you have an opinion on Attorney General Joe Foster’s ruling?  Let us know in the comments.

UPDATE: Read our Citizen Voices℠ report \and find out where New Hampshire stands on this issue.


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Representative, NH House of Representatives (2010 - 2018); Chief Mechanical Systems Engineer

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