(CN) - The Justice Department plans to strengthen federal background checks to keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill people who might be violent, the agency announced Friday.
Federal law bars anyone who has been "adjudicated as a mental defective" or "committed to a mental institution" from receiving, possessing, shipping or transporting firearms.
The agency said it's proposing a regulation to clarify that these categories include anyone found legally insane, incompetent to stand trial, or not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. They also include those involuntarily committed or found guilty but mentally ill.
The change comes in the wake of headline-grabbing mass shootings -- including in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo. -- that involved suspects with histories of mental health issues.
"We are taking an important, commonsense step to clarify the federal firearms regulations, which will strengthen our ability to keep dangerous weapons out of the wrong hands," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement Friday. "This step will provide clear guidance on who is prohibited from possessing firearms under federal law for reasons related to mental health, enabling America's brave law enforcement and public safety officials to better protect the American people and ensure the safety of our homes and communities."
The Justice Department said the proposed regulation will help states know what information about the mentally ill they can and should submit to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
The agency posted the proposed regulation for public review and is accepting comments at regulations.gov.
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