Don’t get crazy in Delaware

This article is a great example about how personal information collected and stored for one purpose is inevitably use for another (hat tip to Instapundit). In Delaware there is an on-line system used check if you eligible to purchase a firearm. Of course one of the things that would disqualify you would be a history of mental illness. When you apply to purchase a firearm in Delaware you sign a consent authorizing the release of this information.

In Delaware, when someone attempts to purchase a pistol or rifle, he or she must first sign a consent form authorizing a criminal and mental health check by the state Firearms Transaction Approval Program.

These background checks are initiated when a gun dealer calls the firearms unit seeking approval to sell a weapon.

Employees of FTAP conduct about 10,000 background checks a year using computers that link to criminal and court databases and a mental health database maintained by the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services.

 OK, so far so good. No one wants to sell guns to crazy people. But here’s where it gets interesting. The police can also use the same system if they find you with a gun to verify that you aren’t disqualified from owning one.

“Basically, it’s up to the trooper’s discretion,” said State Police Capt. Galen M. Purcell, director of the State Bureau of Identification. “If they pull someone over and if there are firearms in the car, or they want to make sure they’re not prohibited, they may call the FTAP.”

Purcell described the superchecks as “one-stop shopping.”

“They hit all appropriate databases; criminal history, Department of Motor Vehicles, and it’s also linked to DHSS,” he said.

Drewry Fennell, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware, said that in the context of federal law, someone’s mental health history is surrounded by “robust protections.”

“There’s a clear directive that they’re not supposed to be used for general law enforcement purposes,” Fennell said. “There are a couple of exceptions in the regulations, but there is no exception to support a general law enforcement query.”

So basically if you live in Delaware any police officer can access your mental health records. They just need to claim there is a gun in your car.

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