House votes to overturn Obama gun rule

The House on Thursday struck down an Obama-era regulation that could block some recipients of disability benefits from buying guns.

The House voted 235-180 to roll back a rule that required the Social Security Administration to report people who receive disability benefits and have a mental health condition to the FBI’s background check system. The database is used to determine eligibility for buying a firearm.  

Critics said the rule stripped Second Amendment rights from people who are not dangerously mentally ill, such as those who have eating disorders or mental disorders that prevent them from managing their own finances.

The National Rifle Association opposed the rule. While the group says it supports keeping guns away from the mentally ill, it said the determination about who is mentally ill should be left to the courts.

“The Obama administration’s last minute, back-door gun grab would have stripped law-abiding Americans of their Second Amendment rights without due process,” said Chris Cox, the NRA’s top lobbyist.

Supporters of the rule said the step was necessary to keep guns away from people with mental disorders like schizophrenia and severe anxiety.

Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) accused Republicans of weakening the background check system. "The House charged ahead with an extreme, hastily written, one-sided measure that would make the American people less safe," she said.

Under the rule, which is set to take force in December, the Social Security Administration (SSA) rule would report disability recipients with severe mental disorders to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

People entered into the system would be able to apply for relief from the SSA, but not until after their names were sent to the FBI. They would also be able to appeal in court.

House Republicans turned to the Congressional Review Act to overturn the regulation. The law allows lawmakers to roll back rules they disapprove of. Critically for Republicans, the resolutions cannot be filibustered in the Senate.

The NRA has raised concerns about a similar gun rule from the Department of Veterans Affairs. But that rule was issued so long ago, it is no longer eligible for repeal under the Congressional Review Act.

The House also voted Thursday to strike down the Labor Department’s blacklisting rule, which requires federal contractors to report labor violations.

On Wednesday, the House voted to strike down the Interior Department’s stream protection rule and the Securities and Exchange Commission’s disclosure requirements for oil and gas companies through the Congressional Review Act.

The House is also expected Friday to strike down the Interior Department’s methane emissions standards.

The Senate must approve each of these measures with a simple majority before they are sent to President Trump to sign.

- Updated at 7:27 p.m.