Let’s Reasonably Discuss Whether Mentally Ill People Should Have Guns (No, They Should Not)

As we’ve seen with the Stream Protection Rule, Republicans have been quick to use Congress to undo Obama-era regulations. The one that’s specifically in the crosshairs now (see what I did there?) is a rule issued by the Social Security Administration that actually has nothing to do with Social Security.

The regulation, which has only been on the books for a few weeks, instead deals with who is and is not listed on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This specific rule addresses a very narrow list of Americans. In order for this rule to apply to you, you need to: have been deemed to have a mental disorder, qualify for a disability because of that order; and to be unable due to the disorder to manage your own affairs. If you fit those criteria, you would be added to NICS and be unable to purchase a firearm. You can petition to have that right restored should you undergo successful treatment or the like, but as long as you fit that bill, you’d not be able to buy a gun.

Often, after mass shootings, we’re told that “it’s not a gun issue, it’s a mental health issue.” Well, here’s a solution to that. By keeping the mentally ill from buying guns in the first place, you kill two birds without having to use a bullet. There are criticisms of the rule I can understand, specifically regarding the list of mental disorders that the SSA keeps tabs on, which include some relatively innocuous conditions like agoraphobia, but this rule also keeps guns out of the hands of people suffering from PTSD, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Of course, Congress isn’t in the business of fixing things they don’t like, but rather throwing out the babies with the bath water, so H.J. Res 40 would do to this rule what H.J. Res 38 did to Stream Protection.

This is the perfect example of one of those issues where those of us still sifting through the rubble for areas of agreement and understanding should find one another. People who are mentally ill – enough so that they need assistance managing their affairs and are receiving government benefits to help them do so – shouldn’t have guns. But as I’ve reiterated again and again, Republicans, their allies in the NRA, and the voters who support them simply will not give an inch. In fact, in what is becoming a more and more alarming trend, I can barely do research on these bills without coming across a mountain of posts like these:

As he was going out the door, Barack Obama made one final obscene gesture to the Second Amendment community.

That gesture consisted of a rule which would troll the Social Security rolls and identify recipients whose checks were processed by a guardian.

Once these people were identified, their names would be inputted into the NICS system, and their guns would be taken away.

That was from gunowners.org. And it’s not true. The rule didn’t grandfather in anyone who already owned a firearm It simply added people to the background check system should they attempt to buy one in the future. In a post titled “Obama’s Social Security Gun Ban Goes on the Chopping Block” something called the Washington Examiner led with:


Last year, the Social Security Administration released proposed rulemaking on a disability-related gun ban in clear violation of the Second Amendment’s protections that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.  In December 2016, Barack Hussein Obama Soetoro Sobarkah finalized a new illegal SSA gun ban rule.  Now, members of Congress are about to send it bye bye.

So, I ask those of you who lament the state of our discourse: if I were to wade through ads for Ron Paul’s Gold Advice and banner ads advertising survival rations, and find the comments section in an attempt to “reach out to” and “understand” the thought process behind that paragraph, how would I go about that? How do you rationally discuss the finer points of Social Security Administration databases with a group that doesn’t even call the last president by his name and misrepresent what he did? What am I left to do besides roll my eyes and point out that “inputted” isn’t a word?

But the bigger problem is – where are the counterpoints to this? Where is someone supposed to go? For all our laments about fake news and adhering to reason, we’re asleep at the switch while the alt-right grist mill churns out content by the ton. I’m not saying we need more sites on the left that warn of lizard people and illuminati to balance it out, I’m simply saying… where are the normal people?

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