Congress overrules policy preventing mentally ill from purchasing firearms

On Feb. 15, the Senate voted to repeal a rule passed by the Obama administration which intended to prevent those suffering from mental illness from purchasing firearms. The policy was created as a response to the mass shooting in Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, when Adam Lanza, a man suffering from mental illness, shot and killed 20 children and six adults.

On Feb. 15, the Senate passed legislation that would reverse a policy created by the Obama administration preventing those suffering from mental illness from purchasing firearms. (Photo courtesy of Michael Saechang via the Flickr Creative Commons)

The rule, which went into effect in January, required the Social Security Administration to report the names of an estimated 75,000 people who were deemed too mentally ill or otherwise unable to manage their own disability benefits to a national background check system which gun sellers would have had to reference before selling a gun to someone.

However, under the Congressional Review Act, Congress stopped the new rule from going into effect – according to the act, as long as the majority agrees and the president signs off on it, previously passed regulations can be overruled.

Republicans, who hold the majority in both Houses of Congress, argue that the restriction is unfair because the wording “mentally ill” is a vague term that includes a variety of disorders. Iowa Senator Charles Grassley pointed out those with eating or sleep disorders could be prevented from purchasing guns under the rule.

In addition, the American Civil Liberties Union has supported repealing the rule because they argue it stigmatizes the mentally ill while not addressing, “a vast and diverse group of citizens are violent.”

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, a strong supporter of gun control after the shooting at Sandy Hook stated, “If you can’t manage your own financial affairs, how can we expect that you’re going to be a responsible steward of a dangerous, lethal firearm?”

President Trump is expected to sign off on the repeal of the rule in the near future.

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