POLITICS
03/01/2017 03:45 pm ET

Trump Axes Rule Meant To Keep Guns From Those With Mental Illness

The GOP overturned a background check regulation put in place by the Obama administration.

Following the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, in which 20 children and six teachers were killed, then-President Barack Obama had a simple legislation request: to make it harder for individuals with mental illnesses to access guns.

That regulation was finalized in December, and on Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed a law reversing it.

A sign is posted on an electricity pole outside a house near Sandy Hook Elementary School, nearly two weeks after a gunman sh
Reuters
A sign is posted on an electricity pole outside a house near Sandy Hook Elementary School, nearly two weeks after a gunman shot dead 20 students and six adults, in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 27, 2012. 

Obama’s rule would have added people receiving Social Security funds for mental illness to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Those on the list would have had to be receiving full benefits because of a mental illness, unable to work, and would have needed the help of a third party to manage their benefits, according to CNN. 

The Obama administration estimated the rule would have affected roughly 75,000 people annually. It went into effect on Jan. 18 but compliance wasn’t mandated till December of this year. 

Earlier this month, congressional Republicans successfully voted to reverse the rule after legislation was introduced by Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas).  

“We need to protect rights of all Americans, including individuals with disabilities,” Johnson said then, referring to Second Amendment rights. 

Both the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Council on Disability also came out against Obama’s rule, arguing that it stereotyped people with mental illness as being violent and increased the stigma of “seeking and receiving mental health treatment.”

The New York Times editorial board, however, noted that the rule would not affect people with mental illnesses like eating disorders, but those who suffer from illnesses including psychotic disorders and schizophrenia. “Allowing them to buy guns poses an inordinate and needless risk to public safety,” the board wrote.

Trump quietly signed the reversal into law on Tuesday, and as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow pointed out, no cameras were present. 

In a statement by spokesman Chris Cox, the National Rifle Association applauded Trump’s decision.

“Today marks a new era for law-abiding gun owners, as we now have a president who respects and supports our right to keep and bear arms,” Cox said. “We are pleased that this example of government overreach will no longer be pursued.” 

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) tried convincing Senate Republicans earlier this month to reject the bill. 

“If you can’t manage your own financial affairs, how can we expect you are going to be a responsible steward of a dangerous, lethal firearm?” Murphy said in a speech.

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