Last week we reported on the House vote to repeal a rule change stemming from an executive order issued by President Obama. The rule change, if it had gone into effect, would have require the Social Security Administration SSA to report anyone receiving benefits who cannot manage their own finances to the NICS system, among other individuals. They would have then be prevented from purchasing or legally owning firearms.
The rule had been widely criticized for casting too broad a net, and for not including any due process or appeals system of any kind.
When the House voted to repeal the rule (the Senate will now vote and, if approved, the change will head to the President’s desk) a number of so-called mainstream media outlets reported on it, but from the headlines, you may not have guessed it was a story about a SSA rule change.
Let’s compare a couple headlines just to see how different reporting on the same issue can be.
The website for NRA-ILA.org, the NRA’s lobbying branch, ran the news with the headline: “U.S. House Passes Repeal of Social Security Administration Gun Grab, Begins Rolling Back Obama Era Executive Gun Control.” Over at guns.com, the headline was: “Congress to Reverse Obama Social Security Gun Ban.”
Over at nymag.com, the same story was reported under the headline: “House GOP Blocks Measure to Prevent Mentally Ill People From Getting Firearms.” The headline at MSNBC.com was “House Republicans Vote to Expand gun Access for Mentally Impaired.”
As this story on breitbart.com points out, Politico reported the repeal of the gun ban as a repeal of a “background check rule” and Bloomberg reported that it would allow “guns for the mentally incompetent.”
USA Today claimed it was an effort to “strike (a) rule banning guns for some deemed mentally impaired.”
As guns.com reported, the rule would have “seen the SSA report specific beneficiaries to the FBI’s NICS system…it applies to disability insurance and supplemental security recipients who need someone to manage their finances due to a mental disorder.”
These are people who have not necessarily been declared by a physician or a judge to be mentally disabled in some way, only that they’ve named a proxy to handle their finances and insurance. Under the changed rule, for this, they would have been denied their Second Amendment rights without review or notification.
If a person were to be determined mentally unfit by a judge at a doctor’s recommendation, they would be required to be reported to NICS anyway by their state, if their state bothers to send records to NICS. Some states, like Pennsylvania, operate their own background check system, but still report criminal and mental health records to NICS.
To be clear, any of these 75,000 individuals who would have been affected by the rule change had it gone into effect would have been required to pass a NICS check, as usual, if they were to purchase a firearm regardless of their status with the SSA.
That doesn’t seem to be the affront to the public safety as many of those headlines would have readers believe.