A plan by the Obama administration to bar certain Social Security beneficiaries from owning a firearm has been heavily criticized by gun rights advocates as one of the most audacious moves to push gun control so far.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the move will integrate data from the Social Security Administration (SSA) into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), something that has never been done before. As a result, beneficiaries who have been declared incompetent due to mental illness or disease may be stripped of their firearms. However, in the same group are beneficiaries who unable to manage their disability payments or pensions and have been assigned a “representative payee,” which includes about 4.2 million Americans. The plan may also affect some Supplemental Security Income recipients.
“Obviously, many individuals swept up in this egregious case of bureaucratic over-reach would not otherwise be prohibited from owning, possessing, or acquiring firearms under federal law,” stated the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action.
Many critics of the plan argue that it will target gun owners based solely on financial competence, rather than mental illness, which is what the Obama administration had in mind. Gun rights advocates, mental health experts, and activists for the disabled say the plan will affect beneficiaries who are perfectly capable of owning a firearm without being a danger to themselves or others.
“Someone can be incapable of managing their funds but not be dangerous, violent or unsafe,” Dr. Marc Rosen, a psychologist at Yale, told the Times. “They are very different determinations.”
The plan quickly drew condemnation from a number of lawmakers, who earlier this week sent a letter to the acting commissioner of the SSA, Carolyn Colvin.
“Old age or a disability doesn’t make someone a threat to society. Having a representative payee should not be grounds to revoke constitutional rights. We strongly urge you to halt any steps to provide information on Social Security benefiaciaries or Supplmental Security Income recipients to the NICS,” stated a letter signed by members of the House of Representatives, including the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security, Congressman Sam Johnson (R-Texas).
“If left to their own devices, President Obama’s Social Security Administration would be free to implement the largest gun grab in American history,” said Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA-ILA. “The NRA appreciates Chairman Johnson’s swift action to put a halt to this outrageous scheme that would deny millions of Americans a fundamental constitutional right because they need or want help managing their finances.”
Cox pointed to the affects of a similar program in the Veterans Administration that designated veterans as “prohibited persons” once they were assigned a fiduciary to manage their benefits. So far about 177,00 veterans have been affected, but are able to purchase a firearm if they file an appeal and are deemed eligible.
You can watch an interview with Cox on the subject below:
Image courtesy the Social Security Administration