Va. Tech Gunman's Mental Records Released

In this undated photo released by the Virginia State Police, Cho Seung-Hui is shown. Seung-Hui, 23, of South Korea, is identified by police as the gunman suspected in the massacre that left 33 people dead at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., Monday, April 16, 2007, the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history. (AP Photo/Virginia State Police) AP Photo/Virginia State Police

Relatives of the student gunman who killed 32 people on the Virginia Tech campus turned over his mental health records to a gubernatorial panel investigating the shootings, the panel's chairman said Thursday.

Federal privacy laws governing health and student information had prevented the panel from reviewing Seung-Hui Cho's records. Panel Chairman W. Gerald Massengill had said he would go to court if necessary to obtain them.

"This is not all the records that we will need," Massengill told The Associated Press on Thursday, "but this is certainly some that we felt a strong need to take a look at."

University spokesman Larry Hincker said the family turned over Cho's mental health records on Tuesday. Massengill said they were delivered to the panel on Wednesday, but that he had not yet examined them.

Virginia Tech officials had been in negotiations with the family since the panel met in Blacksburg in May, Hincker said. Panel members have expressed frustration at state and school officials, who have said they couldn't turn over Cho's medical, mental health or scholastic records because federal privacy laws protect people even after death.

Cho killed himself on April 16 shortly after a shooting rampage in which he killed two students at a Virginia Tech dormitory and 30 other students and staff inside a classroom building. It was the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

The release of Cho's records follows a federal report claiming that privacy laws helped prevent school officials, doctors and police from sharing information about the gunman.

As a result, information that could be used to get troubled students counseling or prevent them from buying handguns never makes it to the appropriate agency, the report by three Cabinet agencies said.

President Bush ordered the report in April after the shootings.

Cho's roommates noticed he had problems, his professors expressed concern about his violent writings, and a judge ordered him into treatment after describing the young man as a danger to himself and others.

But it's unclear whether Cho received follow-up treatment, and because the court order never made it into a federal database, he was able to legally purchase two handguns to carry out the attack.

"People don't understand what they can share and what they can't share," said Mike Leavitt, the secretary of Health and Human Services.
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    Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.

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