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Social Security Gun Ban Struck Down

March 6, 2017

On February 2, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 235-180 to strike down President Obama’s Social Security Gun Ban. The regulation addressed concern about mass shootings and the role of gun ownership and mental health play in these tragedies. The regulation would require the Social Security Administration (SSA) to report people who had documented mental health issues and who were unable to manage their own benefits, an estimated 75,000 people in total.

Reporting on Mental Illness

Many in Congress felt that the standards for determining an individual’s mental health were too broad. “There are people who need help and seek help, but that is not a criteria for taking away one’s constitutional right,” said Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX). There were also concerns about expanding the role of the SSA to include reporting people to the FBI’s National Criminal Background Check System. Those against the gun ban claim that because it affects Second Amendment rights the court system should determine who is eligible to purchase guns. Chris Cox of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action stated: “Congress’s decision to review the Obama administration’s back-door gun grab is a significant step forward in protecting a fundamental constitutional right for law-abiding gun owners.” However, those in favor of the gun ban claimed that it will ban people with serious mental illnesses from being able to buy guns. They also argued that precedent has already been set for government agencies to report mental illness, because the Veterans Affairs Administration monitors and reports mental issues.

Striking Down the Gun Ban

Congress is allowed to overturn new regulations under the Congressional Review Act. Since the regulation was finalized January 18, 2017, it falls within the sixty legislative days given for the House to review regulations before they go into effect. According to Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA), who cosponsored the bill, the bill was intended to protect, “the Second Amendment rights of all Americans, including those who receive Social Security disability benefits. Without this measure, their Second Amendment rights would have been restricted without due process. Today’s joint resolution of disapproval reins in the excessive and lawless executive actions of the Obama administration and restores faith in the the [sic] Article I legislative authority of Congress.”