Social Security releases proposed rule to strip gun rights from some beneficiaries

The Social Security Administration has released the details of how it proposes to identify some recipients for bans on possessing and acquiring firearms.

First broached last July in what the National Rifle Association is calling the “largest gun grab in American history,” President Obama called on the SSA in January to advance a rulemaking process by which certain individuals receiving benefits would be reported to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the database Federal Firearms Licensees use to determine whether a prospective buyer is eligible to buy firearms and/or explosives. This would effectively make them a prohibited firearms possessor.

Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin signed the proposed rule, set to be posted to the Federal Register, on April 28.

Included in the 41-page document is the five-step qualification process that will be used to first identify and then report selected Title II and Title XVI beneficiaries to the Department of Justice.

First, individuals would have to file a claim based on disability. Next, the individual would have to have been adjudicated as having a Mental Disorder Listing and a corresponding primary diagnosis code in Social Security’s records based on that mental impairment.

Further, the individual would have to be an adult over 18 but under retirement age. Finally, after matching the other four conditions, the beneficiary would have to receive their benefits through a representative payee approved by the agency due to being incapable of managing their own payments.

“As a result, individuals whom we are required to report to NICS will be a subset of the universe of individuals for whom we have appointed a representative payee,” noted the rule.

The SSA has reported that as many as 75,000 individuals per year could meet such guidelines. As of March 2016, the agency reports that 65,488,000 people are receiving Social Security, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or both, making the estimated number expected to report to NICS comprise 0.11 percent of those currently receiving benefits.

“Considering the relevant regulatory factors, discussed above, however, we believe that there is a reasonable and appropriate fit between the criteria we use to decide whether some of our beneficiaries are disabled and require a representative payee and the Federal mental health prohibitor,” reads the rule.

Those who could possibly be at risk of being reported to NICS would be notified during their adjudication process that they might lose their gun rights depending on the findings. Those who did will be notified in writing and have an opportunity to have their case reviewed during which they would have to provide written statements, current and past mental health status for the past five years as well as a criminal history report.

Those denied on administrative review can appeal that denial to their local U.S. District Court.

The NRA, while admitting the proposal is not as drastic as many initially feared and conceding it is more narrowly tailored than the procedure used by the Veteran’s Administration to report those deemed “mental defects” to DOJ, still feel more can be done.

“Ultimately, SSA’s rulemaking highlights the need for systemic changes to the federal laws concerning when mental illness results in a person being prohibited from possessing and receiving firearms,” reads an analysis of the proposal released Friday by the gun rights group. “Financial acumen, even if related to an underlying issue with sleep disturbances or inflated self-esteem, has no necessary relationship to a propensity for violence, and it’s not a sufficient basis to strip persons of their inalienable right to self-defense.”

The proposed rule will be open for comments for 60 days.

Comments may be made via the online Federal eRulemaking portal (use the “Search” function to find docket number SSA–2016–0011); by fax to (410) 966-2830; or by mail to NICS Comments, Social Security Administration, 3100 West High Rise Building, 6401 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, Maryland 21235–640.

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