House Members Battle Plan to Screen Gun Buyers by Social Security Status

The NRA has called a new Social Security program "the largest gun grab in American history."

House Republicans moved this week to derail a reported White House plan to restrict up to 4.2 million Social Security recipients from owning firearms in what the NRA is calling the "largest gun grab in American History."

People who have their finances managed by a friend or family member designated as a "representative payee" for Social Security or SSI benefits could have their names reported to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), effectively prohibiting them from possessing firearms.

According to the Los Angleles Times, those affected would be social security recipients with "marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease."

The move seems to be a continuation of a practice increasingly adopted since 1998 by the Veteran's Administration that has seen at least 177,000 vets stripped of their gun rights after they granted their fiduciary responsibilities to someone else.

"Someone can be incapable of managing their funds but not be dangerous, violent, or unsafe," said Dr. Marc Rosen, a Yale psychiatrist who has conducted research on how vets with mental health problems manage their money. "They are very different determinations."

Members of the House majority have written a cautionary letter to Carolyn Colvin, the acting commissioner of Social Security, and introduced legislation to block the move this week.

"Providing information on individuals who have a representative payee to the NICS is a broad overreach of authority and violates beneficiaries' constitutional rights," reads the letter. "This policy runs counter to the aims of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)—the 25th anniversary of which we will celebrate this week—and would stigmatize seniors and people with disabilities and isolate them from society at large."

The authors of the letter are Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee and Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies—basically those in the House who control funding for the administration side of the SSA.

"Old age or a disability doesn't make someone a threat to society," the letter continues. "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 beneficiaries or Supplemental Security Income recipients to the NICS."

On Tuesday, a bill was introduced by U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-LA) that would prevent the names of some SSA beneficiaries who are unable to manage their own affairs to be forwarded to the NICS.

Dubbed the Social Security Second Amendment Protection Act, the legislation would severely limit any reporting requirement made by the SSA.

The bill would mandate that such reporting of SSA or SSI beneficiaries could only be accomplished if a federal court has declared the individual mentally incompetent.