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Trump Defends Due Process

The president signs a bill overriding a Social Security rule that would have arbitrarily nullified Second Amendment rights.

What do you call a regulation that summarily deprives law-abiding Americans of their Second Amendment rights without any evidence that they pose a danger to others? If you are a New York Times editorialist, you call it "sensible."

That was the newspaper's take on a Social Security Administration (SSA) rule that Congress canceled with a bill President Trump signed last week. The objections aroused by the rule's demise show that its supporters do not understand it, do not value the constitutional right to arms, or both.

The SSA rule would have blocked gun purchases by anyone who receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and who, because of a mental impairment, has been assigned a representative payee to handle the money. According to the SSA, such an individual has been "adjudicated as a mental defective" and is therefore prohibited from owning firearms by the Gun Control Act of 1968.

But as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) pointed out, "the determination by SSA line staff that a beneficiary needs a representative payee to manage their money benefit is simply not an 'adjudication' in any ordinary meaning of the word." The beneficiary has no right to a hearing where he could contest that determination with the help of a lawyer, as he would if a court were deciding whether he is legally competent or whether he should be committed to a psychiatric facility (another disqualifying criterion under the Gun Control Act).

Furthermore, the ACLU noted, "the rule automatically conflates one disability-related characteristic, that is, difficulty managing money, with the inability to safely possess a firearm." In doing so, "it advances and reinforces the harmful stereotype that people with mental disabilities, a vast and diverse group of citizens, are violent."

There is no evidence that the SSI and SSDI beneficiaries covered by the rule are especially prone to violence. The SSA conceded as much, saying, "We are not attempting to imply a connection between mental illness and a propensity for violence, particularly gun violence."

Supporters of the SSA rule glided over the lack of due process, noting that beneficiaries could appeal the loss of their constitutional rights after the fact by trying to show they pose no threat to public safety. In other words, they would be presumed guilty unless they could prove themselves innocent, and in the meantime they would be deprived of the basic human right to armed self-defense.

The rule's defenders also ignored its weak empirical basis. The Times simply asserted that letting disabled people with representative payees buy guns "poses an inordinate and needless risk to public safety," while a Bloomberg View editorial said "America's tragic experience with mentally ill gunmen―from Virginia Tech in 2007 to Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012—shows the folly of simply dismissing the danger." Neither of those killers would have been covered by the SSA rule.

Many press reports misrepresented the rule's scope, saying it would affect a total of 75,000 people. The Obama administration estimated that the rule, applied prospectively, would have affected about 75,000 people each year.

The SSA rule, which was finalized in December, never actually took effect, so withdrawing it merely maintains the status quo. Yet editorials and news stories implied that the congressional override would expose Americans to new dangers.

A New York Daily News editorial (tactfully titled "Gun Crazy") claimed the vote against the SSA rule would "liberalize access to weapons," "making it easier for the mentally troubled to get guns." Bloomberg said it would "weaken" background checks for gun owners, while BBC News said it would "loosen" them. NBC News said Congress was "revoking Obama-era gun checks for people with mental illnesses."

Legal restrictions on gun ownership in the United States already disqualify millions of people who have not demonstrated any violent tendencies, including drug offenders, cannabis consumers, and anyone who was ever forcibly treated for suicidal impulses. Adding another arbitrary category would only compound this injustice.

© Copyright 2017 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  • buybuydandavis||

    Trump Defends Due Process
    The president signs a bill overriding a Social Security rule that would have arbitrarily nullified Second Amendment rights.

    Reason praises Racist Sexist Nazi Authoritarian!

  • marshaul||

    First comment, reminding me to use Reasonable. Thanks.

  • Memory Hole||

    Good job Trump! And you're taking a reasonably decent position on healthcare which I will also acknowledge at this time.

  • sarcasmic||

  • Memory Hole||

    Oh shit hahahahaha!

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Fucking hilarious. I had forgotten about that little gem.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    According to the SSA, such an individual has been "adjudicated as a mental defective" and is therefore prohibited from owning firearms by the Gun Control Act of 1968.

    Three generations of imbecilic rights are enough.

  • OldMexican Blankety Blank||

    Furthermore, the ACLU noted, "the rule automatically conflates one disability-related characteristic, that is, difficulty managing money, with the inability to safely possess a firearm."


    Yeah, Congress people would not be able to pack heat. I fully support the ACLU on this one.

  • Thrackmoor||

    I don't know... Congress not packing heat isn't a bad thing. Too bad they have others to pack heat for them.

  • marshaul||

    I think, since congress gets to pass laws about what we can do, we should have the similarly unilateral decision-making ability over them. We should certainly disarm congressvermin without any debate over such frivolities as "rights".

  • Cynical Asshole||

    The objections aroused by the rule's demise show that its supporters do not understand it, do not value the constitutional right to arms, or both.

    My guess would be both...

    The SSA rule, which was finalized in December, never actually took effect, so withdrawing it merely maintains the status quo. Yet editorials and news stories implied that the congressional override would expose Americans to new dangers.

    A New York Daily News editorial (tactfully titled "Gun Crazy") claimed the vote against the SSA rule would "liberalize access to weapons," "making it easier for the mentally troubled to get guns." Bloomberg said it would "weaken" background checks for gun owners, while BBC News said it would "loosen" them. NBC News said Congress was "revoking Obama-era gun checks for people with mental illnesses."

    ...in addition to being dishonest little shit-stains.

  • Rational Exuberance||

    Were the media always this dishonest or has it gotten worse over the last few years?

  • Eternal Blue Sky||

    I think they took the idea that they were some sort of directors of public opinion seriously, and felt it their duty to shape public opinion by stretching the truth now and then. Since everyone got everything they new from the media at one point in time, no one noticed when that happened.

    Now the internet exists. People can realize when the media is lying.

    This current ridiculous spree of lying they've been doing is, I think, them flailing around in desperation trying to figure out why none of the methods they used to shape public opinion work anymore.

  • SomeGuy||

    I think its been this way for 10 or 20 years. At least 10 years if not longer

  • Sal Paradise||

    I'm shocked the ACLU defended the 2nd amendment.

  • marshaul||

    Right, I mean, why bother to actually pay attention to reality, when you can just adopt tribal memes as fact?

  • Austen||

    Is there an argument to be made whether the provisional portion of receiving SSI/SSD and access to 2nd Amendment rights (which is absurd to begin with) makes participation in Social Security optional to begin with?

    If someone, under the previous regulation, could still buy firearms by opting out of receiving SSI or SSD benefits, would that also translate to someone opting out of Social Security altogether before becoming eligible for benefits?

    I know this is a moot point since the constitutionality of the regulation is suspect to begin with, but since they went there anyway....

  • nicmart||

    A rare defeat for the Therapeutic State.

  • Verner Hornung||

    For a small correction to the article information, I believe that FBI gun background check disqualification for involuntary commitment to mental health treatment lasts only five years, so that a person who went to the psych ward after a suicide threat would be able to buy a gun after that length of time, unless further adjudicated incompetent by the courts. Although the whole affair sounds like PC run amok; the SSA should be more worried over why it takes two years, a lawyer, and an appeals fight to get disability benefits in the first place. These are almost summarily denied on first application. Only applicants whose deaths are expected within a few months are spared the ordeal.

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