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House Scraps Background Check for Disabled Social Security Recipients Who Buy Guns

February 10, 2017

A rule, created during the Obama administration, would prevent some Social Security disability recipients from buying firearms if they had a mental disorder so severe that they could not work and needed someone to handle their benefits. In late January the House of Representatives voted 235-180 to dump this restriction. USA Today reported that “the rule…would have affected an estimated 75,000 beneficiaries.”

Under the provisions of the rule, the Social Security Administration would have submitted to the FBI a list of names of those approved for SSDI or SSI benefits that were unable to manage their own finances because of a documented mental illness, including schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Their names would have come up in a background check if they tried to buy a gun. The SSA would have been required to notify those on this list so they could appeal their background-check status if they believed the SSA was wrong in its determination.

The rule was opposed by the National Rifle Association, the ACLU, and many disability rights advocacy groups. These organizations argued that this background-check rule violated due process and it infringed on Second Amendment rights. “There is no evidence suggesting that those receiving disability benefits from the Social Security Administration are a threat to public safety,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-VA, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Proponents of the rule, New Yorker magazine reports, “argued that if someone is unable to work or manage his or her affairs because of a severe mental illness, perhaps he or she should not easily be able to purchase a firearm.”

The measure which scuttles this background-check rule now goes to the Senate for further action.