More sensible rules are needed

After a shooting spree that killed four people in Santa Monica, Calif., the city’s police chief talked with reporters. But critical information about the killer, a 24-year-old man, was not provided – because that would have made Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks a criminal.

Time and time again, Americans have witnessed the idiocy of political correctness involving mass murderers. That needs to change.

Had police not apprehended the Santa Monica murderer quickly, killing him in a shootout, the death toll might have been higher.

His motive still is being investigated. It also is being pondered by many Americans who wonder what, if anything, can be done to prevent such bloody rampages in the future.

One key is the past of those who engage in massacres. Recently, Seabrooks noted the Santa Monica killer had run-ins with the police seven years ago. She could not talk about them because he was a juvenile at the time. In most states, criminal records of those under 18 years of age are sealed.

Unfortunately, there are many reasons why it is difficult for the public – and sometimes even police investigators – to piece together psychological profiles of killers.

Another problem is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA. It includes restrictions on what information can be made public about an individual’s health care, including his psychological problems. In 2007, after Seung-Hui Cho slaughtered 32 people at Virginia Tech, details of his mentally troubled past emerged slowly, because of the HIPAA.

Earlier this year, there was some delay in releasing college records involving Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the brothers who exploded bombs at the Boston Marathon, because of federal privacy student privacy laws.

Researchers trying to unlock the secret of spotting homicidal personalities in the past – and the American public – should not be handicapped by privacy laws. Amendments to those statutes should be made as soon as possible, to allow more access to information about killers and how to stop them.