Mentally ill may be able to purchase guns, Congress’ hypocrisy can’t continue

By Editorial Board

Congress provided its fair share of triumphs for the Republican Party since Donald Trump became president, but a recent takedown of a sensible rule enforced by the Obama Administration is a win for no one. 

The Senate voted 57-43 on Feb. 15 to nix a regulation that requires the Social Security Administration to report to the FBI people who have a documented mental health condition and receive disability benefits so it will show up in background checks if they attempt to buy a firearm. 

The rule—which was issued in 2016 four years after the Sandy Hook shooting that killed 26 people, predominantly children between six and seven years old—is designed to stop people with severe mental illnesses from buying guns. Yale University’s Child Study Center observed the Sandy Hook shooter when he was in ninth grade and called for drastic measures to help him prior to the tragedy after examinations showed that he suffered from psychiatric and physical ailments like anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder, according to a Nov. 21, 2014 New York Times article.

The National Rifle Association has kept up a mantra of  “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” for decades, which, while true in a very loose sense, shows that revoking this rule is hypocritical because it is allowing mentally ill people access to weapons that can potentially cause fatal harm. Being inconsistent with a heavily discussed topic such as gun control with no replacement law is reminiscent of the executive order to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Both are beneficial to society but are fearfully being pushed out the door.  

However, like the ACA, there are legitimate issues with this legislation that should be addressed. 

The NRA was not the only organization that criticized this legislation. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and National Disability Leadership Alliance all spoke out against the legislation when it was first introduced in 2013, according to a Feb. 6 Vox article. 

The concerns with the legislation stemmed from the fact that it would require the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to provide names of all beneficiaries receiving disability payments because of a documented mental illness including dementia, autism and agoraphobia, according to the article. 

Advocacy groups are concerned that using disability payments as a way to classify people who should not own guns opens the door to denying people basic rights because they receive government aid, according to the Vox article. 

People with documented mental illnesses already face discrimination and it is obvious this legislation painted these people with a broad brush, but that does not mean there should not be regulations on who can and cannot purchase guns. 

When Trump signs the law it will be even more clear that he is unable to recognize that eliminating important legislations could have longterm, detrimental effects on the American people and the future of the country.

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