Tomorrow, the departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Justice (DOJ) will publish rules relaxing the release of some protected health information (PHI) for purchasers of weapons.

Up until now, the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has prevented the release to the nationwide criminal background system of information regarding the mental health of individuals who purchase guns. These rules are aimed at loosening HIPAA's proscriptions.

The HHS proposed rule would amend the HIPAA privacy rule “to expressly permit certain HIPAA covered entities to disclose to the National Instant Criminal Background System the identities of individuals who are subject to a federal ‘mental health prohibitor’ that disqualifies them from shipping, transporting, possessing or receiving a firearm.”

The rule would permit but not require the disclosure of such information.