Reg Watch: DOJ begins review of gun safety


The Department of Justice (DOJ) has launched a review of gun safety technology that is intended to “challenge the private sector.”

President Obama last month announced a series of 23 executive actions to address gun violence, one of which directed Attorney General Eric Holder “to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative [ones],” according to a memo.

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The National Institute of Justice, in partnership with DOJ, is gathering information about existing gun safety laws and products. The agencies will explore “emerging gun safety technologies that would be of interest to the law enforcement and criminal justice communities and others with an interest in gun safety,” according to a document that will be published in Wednesday’s Federal Register.

Officials said they would seek input about gun safety products from law enforcement, mechanical engineers, firearms experts, gun safety experts and the gun manufacturing industry, among others.

Comments and other information regarding gun safety technology can be submitted on the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center’s website. Comments can also be emailed to gunsafetytechnology@usdoj.gov by April 3.

The president has launched an administration-wide effort to address gun violence in response to last year’s school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Separately from the gun-safety study, DOJ is moving to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and expand law enforcement’s access to the database.

The president’s executive actions on guns also extend to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

One of Obama’s directives was to ensure coverage of mental-health treatment in Medicaid and under the healthcare reform law. He also ordered increased training of school staff to help them recognize signs of mental illness.

The CDC, meanwhile, was directed to study the causes of gun violence. The president urged Congress to approve $10 million for the agency to examine whether there are links between shooting sprees and violent entertainment.

CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES. A proposed federal rule to cap profit margins for certain health insurance plans and prescription drug benefit programs is now available for review.

The proposal, which is the latest in a raft of rules required by President Obama’s landmark healthcare reform law, was drafted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) is moving quickly to issue the proposal.

The measure would implement “medical loss ratio” requirements of 85 percent on Medicare Advantage plans and the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Program — meaning those plans must spend at least 85 percent of their premiums on “clinical services, prescription drugs, quality improving activities, and direct benefits to beneficiaries.”

Overhead expenses and profits would also be capped at 15 percent.

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION. The Special Education and Rehabilitative Services has proposed to allocate funding for research administered by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. Research will be conducted to “focus research attention on areas of national need,” including improving “employment and independent living outcomes for individuals with disabilities.” No comments have been received on the proposal. Comments are due by Feb. 25.

SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION. The Social Security Administration is proposing to replace the term “mentally retarded” with “intellectual disability” in impairment listings used to evaluate claims involving mental disorders in adults and children. The term is offensive to some, and updating the terminology would fall in line with Congress, private organizations and public health officials. There have been 58 comments on the proposal, with all but a few supportive of the change. Comments are due by Feb. 27.