With legislation approved by Congress on Wednesday to block a pending rule stripping gun rights from some SSA beneficiaries, a fact often ignored is that it will not have an impact on the millions of records already on file.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System has 4,705,061 active records in their index of individuals reported for mental health reasons as of Jan. 31. These records by and large– some 4.5 million– were forwarded from the states with California and Pennsylvania each submitting over 700,000 on their own.
Of the mental health records submitted to NICS by the federal government, 167,815 came from the Department of Veterans Affairs (a figure down from 260,000 last March) while a much smaller amount, about 3,000, came from U.S. courts, federally recognized tribes, and law enforcement agencies.
The Social Security Administration currently has 290 active records in NICS– but they are all for felons, fugitives and those under indictment, not for reasons of mental illness. It was expected that under a controversial rule set to take effect this December, as many as 75,000 who receive benefits due to certain mental health diagnoses and have their funds managed by a representative payee would be reported to NICS annually.
While Congressional action signed into law by President Trump would halt SSA’s never-enforced rule from taking effect, it is unforeseen how many of those individuals may already have been in the NICS index due to reports from other agencies or the states. Further, tempering attention–grabbing headlines from some media outlets, the 4.7 million people in the country who cannot legally possess firearms today due to mental health issues, will still not be able to possess them should the SSA rule be negated.