House votes to end Obama rule banning gun buys for Social Security recipients presumed mentally ill
On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted 235-180 to scrap rules that would require the Social Security Administration (SSA) to provide information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) on mentally impaired persons.
The Obama administration initiated the regulation to keep guns out of the hands of people with mental disorders such as schizophrenia. Opponents argued there was no vote on the rule from elected legislators, and that it violates due process.
The regulations states that only beneficiaries who met five criteria would be reported to the NICS: individuals who have filed a claim based on disability, are considered disabled, have a mental impairment, are between 18 years of age, and retirement age, and those considered incapable of managing their own benefit payments.
“The beneficiaries whose names we would submit to the NICS must meet all five well-defined criteria. We will not report any beneficiary who does not satisfy all five criteria to the NICS,” the regulation reads.
Brian Malte, Senior National Policy Director of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, applauded the regulation in July, saying, “we appreciate the SSA's efforts to submit pertinent information about dangerously mentally ill individuals to NICS so as to keep guns out of the hands of those that we all agree should not have access to them.”
The National Rifle Association (NRA) has opposed the rule since it was proposed, arguing that the courts should determine who is mentally ill, not the SSA.
“The Obama administration’s last minute, back-door gun grab would have stripped law-abiding Americans of their Second Amendment rights without due process,” Chris Cox, the NRA’s top lobbyist says on an NRA legislative site. “Today’s vote was the first step in revoking this unconstitutional action.”
Republicans pointed to the fact that, under the rule’s language, individuals could be added to the NICS database, solely based on the fact that they are considered incapable of managing their own benefit payments and require a “representative payee.”
The Los Angeles Times estimated that the monthly benefits of 4.2 million adults are managed by representative payees.
Republicans contend that individuals who use a representative payee could simply need help managing the benefits they receive from SSA. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said that the regulations were “a violation of the Constitution,” and stated that individuals reported to the NICS database would be “guilty until proven innocent.”
With a Republican majority, the House was able to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to repeal the regulation without Democratic support.
In a letter to congressional leaders, Clyde E. Terry, chairperson of the National Council on Disability, said that using the CRA to overturn regulation was “not only warranted, but necessary.”
The Trump administration could potentially use the CRA to repeal hundreds of rules published under the Obama administration since May 31, 2016.