USA Today Op-Ed: Republicans wrong on Obama Social Security gun rule

The USA Today’s editorial board argued yesterday that Republicans had made a mistake by revoking an Obama-era rule that would have banned some Social Security recipients from owning firearms.

The board argues that Republicans have now made it easier for the mentally ill to purchase guns by revoking the rule, which would have required the Social Security Administration submit to the National Criminal Background Check System names of people who could not manage their finances due to a mental disorder.

The article notes Republican Sen. John Cornyn said the following during a gun debate in 2013: “No one I know believes that a mentally ill person should be able to purchase a firearm.” Yet he and many other Republicans in Congress voted to revoke the Social Security policy.

The editorial board points out that while most people suffering from mental illness are not violent, some of the worst mass shootings in recent years have been carried out by mentally disturbed individuals. The board also notes that suicide is associated with certain types of mental illness and accounts for six of every 10 firearm fatalities in the country.

Before the House voted on Friday to undo the Obama-era regulation, the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to Congress urging representatives to revoke the rule, which the organization argued would unnecessarily stigmatize people with mental disorders and was not based on sound data.

“We oppose this rule because it advances and reinforces the harmful stereotype that people with mental disabilities, a vast and diverse group of citizens, are violent,” reads the ACLU letter. “There is no data to support a connection between the need for a representative payee to manage one’s Social Security disability benefits and a propensity toward gun violence.”

The ACLU also published a companion piece in the USA Today reiterating its support for revoking the rule.

“Adding more innocent Americans to the National Instant Criminal Background database because of a mental disability is a disturbing trend — one that could be applied to voting, parenting or other rights dearer than gun ownership. We opposed it because it would do little to stem gun violence but do much to harm our civil rights.”

The NRA voiced support throughout the process and applauded last week’s revoking of the rule, which is now awaiting President Donald Trump’s signature.

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