Disability Rights Groups Push Back Against New Firearm Regulations

 Gavel and law book with Gun Law on front

by Andy Jones
February 1, 2017

The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities called on Congress on January 26 to overturn recently enacted regulations from the Obama Administration that restrict Second Amendment protections for certain Social Security disability beneficiaries.

Under the rules, finalized December 19, the Social Security Administration is required to forward to the FBI the names of people whose disability benefits are overseen by an agency-approved fiduciary, for consideration to be added to a federal list of individuals barred from obtaining firearms.

Although the Gun Control Act of 1968 already imposes limitations on people “committed to a mental institution” or “adjudicated as a mental defective,” the new rules significantly expand on previous interpretations of this law.

In a letter to the Senate leadership [PDF], the CCD urged Congress to utilize its authority under the Congressional Review Act, which allows it to block new regulations within 60 days after they go into effect.

“We…opposed the rule for a number of reasons, including the damaging message that may be sent by a SSA policy change, which focused on reporting individuals who receive assistance from representative payees in managing their benefits to the (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) gun database,” the letter states. “The current public dialogue is replete with inaccurate stereotyping of people with mental disabilities as violent and dangerous, and there is a real concern that the kind of policy change encompassed by this rule will reinforce those unfounded assumptions."

In addition to the broader criteria, the CCD, which consists of the National Disability Rights Network and dozens of other advocacy groups, criticized the SSA for the lack of due process protections for people listed on the NICS database.

NDRN Senior Public Policy Analyst Dara Baldwin, and two other advocates, also slammed the regulations in a recent column in The Hill, calling them unconstitutional and “unsound as a matter of policy.”

“This regime violates the most basic principles of due process, where the government—and not the individual—bears the burden of proof before depriving individuals of legally protected rights,” the column states. “Regardless of what one thinks of the overall gun control agenda, it is unconscionable to stigmatize and impose this onerous burden on innocent Americans with disabilities.”

Disability Rights Washington is the designated protection and advocacy agency in Washington and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.