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EDITORIAL: Mentally ill free to pack Gun lobby gets rule rescinded

Times-Tribune - 2/17/2017

Feb. 17--Guns don't kill people; people kill people," the old National Rifle Association rallying cry has it. And to hear the gun lobby's disciples in Congress tell it, that is all the more true due to mental illness.

Each time someone with a mental health issue uses a gun to commit an atrocity, gun advocates and gun-friendly lawmakers issue reminders that the gun or guns were not the problem.

Yet Congress voted this week to reverse a sensible rule that had been adopted by the Obama administration, which had required the Social Security Administration to add to the national background check database the names of about 75,000 people with mental illness, which would have precluded them from buying handguns.

The SSA is involved because the people in question are on disability, afflicted with mental disorders severe enough to not be able to manage their own financial affairs and other personal matters. Their illnesses include schizophrenia and psychotic disorders.

Republican Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley claimed that the rule would have precluded someone with "an eating disorder" from acquiring a handgun, but that was not the case. It was focused only on disability beneficiaries who require a trustee to handle their affairs. And the rule included an appeal mechanism.

Congress yet again has sacrificed public safety for the sake of bending to a narrow constituency. The rule did not preclude the right to bear arms to anyone who could bear arms without endangering themselves or the public.

The next time someone suffering a mental illness commits violence with a gun, it won't be the gun's fault. But it might be attributable to lawmakers who could have kept that gun out of the person's hands.


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