RI firearms panel told to proceed carefully

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A task force examining whether Rhode Island should provide mental health records for firearm background checks is being encouraged to tread carefully by mental health advocates.

Several people addressed the legislative task force at its meeting Thursday at the Statehouse. Mental health advocates told members of the panel that they must balance medical privacy and personal rights against the desire to prevent those with significant mental illness from legally acquiring firearms.

The panel was formed following the December 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Conn. State privacy laws now prohibit Rhode Island from providing mental health records for background checks. Most states provide the records.

The task force will report its findings to lawmakers in January.

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