Federal

Social Security Administration Proposes Stripping Gun
Rights for 4.5 Million Recipients

In response to President Obama’s executive orders directing agencies to look for ways they could implement “gun safety measures,” the Social Security Administration proposed a plan that would classify approximately 4.5 million recipients as unable to possess or purchase firearms. Under their proposal, any Social Security recipient who received his or her benefit through a “representative payee,” (meaning that someone else was managing their finances) would be classified as “mentally defective” and added to the National Instant Check System. The Veterans Administration has already been running a similar program, which declares veterans who do not manage their own finances as “mentally defective” under the Gun Control Act, and adding them to NICS.

A few days ago, Senator John Cornyn introduced a bill, S.2002 that would essentially rewrite the mental health provisions of the Gun Control Act of 1968 to both prevent the Social Security Administration from implementing this proposal, and also stop the Veterans Administration program. It would force the Attorney General to send all veterans placed in the system a letter informing them of their status, their rights, and their ability to challenge their classification. The Attorney General would be required to remove veterans from the system where it is shown there were insufficient due process considerations.

Going forward, S.2002 would require that before anyone is “adjudicated mentally incompetent,” that they receive actual notice of a hearing where the individual would have a right to participate and have representation by counsel. It would require a finding that the person is dangerous to themselves or others. S.2002 would also end the practice of using observational (in Pennsylvania, a “302” commitment) or voluntary commitments as grounds for declaring someone mentally incompetent for federal purposes.

Please write to Senators Casey and Toomey, or for New Jersey folks, Senators Booker and Menendez, and ask them to co-sponsor S.2002