Civil Rights

NRA: The mentally ill have gun rights, too

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When the House voted to overturn a last-minute Obama-era gun grab in early February, the mainstream media ran stories so incorrect that it could be considered “fake news.” The reporting was based on mischaracterizations that would lead anyone who follows current events to believe the House voted to exempt mentally ill people from undergoing background checks for firearm purchases. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Senate passed the measure this week and it’s headed to President Donald Trump’s desk, who is expected to sign it. Given the widespread inaccuracies in news reports,  It’s important to explain the facts. Despite what you read in the media the rule in question has nothing to do with who undergoes a background check. Everyone who buys a gun from a licensed dealer has to go through a background check, period.

{mosads}Several years ago, the Obama administration ordered its agencies to identify large groups of people it could unilaterally ban from owning guns. Under that directive, the Social Security Administration (SSA) chose its most vulnerable and misunderstood group – those who are on disability and use a representative payee to help them manage their finances. The SSA would enter the names of those individuals into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and thus they would be prohibited from possessing firearms.


Under this scheme, these folks would lose their constitutional rights without due process and with no finding that they are a danger to themselves or others — the standard that the government must meet before banning people from gun ownership. And contrary to media reports, these individuals are not severely mentally ill — qualifying conditions for Social Security disability are eating disorders, anxiety and insomnia.

All too often, those who struggle with mental illness are stigmatized by society. Not all mental illnesses are alike. In addition, there has not been a demonstrated correlation between mental illness and violence. The government should not lump large groups of people together and tell them, collectively, they’re losing constitutional rights because of conditions for which they’re seeking treatment. That only serves to further stigmatize people who are already unfairly stigmatized.

Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress is allowed to review, and revoke, any action an outgoing administration initiates in its final 60 legislative days. The Obama social security rule was adopted during that time frame. Congress is now acting within its authority to reverse this rule.

It’s also important to note that this rule is opposed by not just the NRA, but also the ACLU and at least a dozen mental health organizations. That’s because taking away constitutional rights without due process is fundamentally un-American. Congress is right to repeal the unconstitutional Obama Social Security rule.

Chris W. Cox is the executive director for the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

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