In the aftermath of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., a false accusation has made its way back into the media: President Trump made it easier for the mentally ill to get guns.
This claim is absolutely false. President Trump simply reversed an Obama-era policy that stripped the Second Amendment rights from Social Security recipients without due process. Let’s review.
In 2015 and 2016, the Obama administration implemented a series of policies that deemed those needing a representative payee through the Social Security Administration and Veterans Affairs “mentally unfit.” As a result, millions of individuals became ineligible to purchase a firearm. A representative payee is someone who helps benefit recipients with finances and bureaucracy navigation.
These so-called mentally unfit individuals were then entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System as ineligible to purchase a firearm without due process. No hearings, no trials, no medical assessment.
The ACLU publicly opposed the Social Security measure and urged Congress to act on reversing it.
“In December 2016, the SSA promulgated a final rule that would require the names of all Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit recipients — who, because of a mental impairment, use a representative payee to help manage their benefits – be submitted to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is used during gun purchases,” the ACLU wrote in a letter to senators last year.
“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 and should not own a gun. 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 letter continued. “The rule further demonstrates the damaging phenomenon of ‘spread,’ or the perception that a disabled individual with one area of impairment automatically has additional, negative and unrelated attributes,” the letter continued. “Regulation of firearms and individual gun ownership or use must be consistent with civil liberties principles, such as due process, equal protection, freedom from unlawful searches, and privacy.”
The National Council on Disability also weighed in.
“There is, simply put, no nexus between the inability to manage money and the ability to safely and responsibly own, possess or use a firearm. This arbitrary linkage not only unnecessarily and unreasonably deprives individuals with disabilities of a constitutional right, it increases the stigma for those who, due to their disabilities, may need a representative payee,” the organization released in a statement.
Last year, the House and Senate voted to bar the Social Security Administration from engaging in the practice of entering individuals seeking monetary guidance into the background check system as mentally unfit, reversing the Obama administration policy. President Trump signed the bill into law. Similar legislation prohibiting the VA from doing the same passed the House last year and is waiting for Senate approval.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to then-Attorney General Eric Holder in 2015, asking why an alarming number of veterans were being referred to NICS as ineligible to purchase a firearm.
“Once the VA determines that a veteran requires a fiduciary to administer benefit payments, the VA reports that veteran to the gun ban list, consequently denying his or her right to possess and own firearms,” Grassley wrote. “The VA’s regulation appears to omit important findings and never reaches the question of whether a veteran is a danger to himself, herself, or others. Thus, a VA determination that a veteran is ‘incompetent’ to manage finances is insufficient to conclude that the veteran is ‘mentally defective’ under the ATF’s standard that is codified in federal law.”
Trump reversed the Social Security policy unfairly and unlawfully implemented by the Obama administration. He is expected to do the same with the VA once the Senate votes on legislation sponsored by Grassley and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
“Veterans are losing their Second Amendment rights because they have someone managing their checkbook,” Grassley wrote in a letter to President Trump earlier this month.
Trump did not reverse a policy that allows the mentally ill to purchase firearms as reporters, media pundits and anti-Second Amendment activists have recklessly claimed. Instead, he’s given millions of individuals their constitutional rights back.
Pavlich is the editor for Townhall.com and a Fox News contributor.