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Why Congress Was Right To Strike Down Ban On Mentally Ill People Buying Guns
Republicans in the Senate this week voted to strike down an Obama-era administrative rule barring firearms purchases by roughly 75,000 Social Security recipients deemed mentally ill. On Feb. 2, the House also voted to eliminate the rule. They were probably right to do so, even if they did it for the wrong reasons.
Critics had said the rule — a good idea in theory — was basically a plot to disarm everyone’s grandmas. “This is one more reminder of the petty, partisan politics of Barack Obama,” the National Rifle Association growled when the rule was approved in December. Partisans on both sides offered up scads of half-truths about the rule, painting liberal supporters as gun-hating totalitarians and conservative critics as dangerous nuts in search of company.
The original rule had been part of a broader Obama administration strategy, after the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, to prevent guns from getting into the hands of the mentally disturbed. At first, the liberal president and the right-leaning NRA seemed to be in agreement on that mission. “How can we possibly even guess how many” more spree shooters might come, “given our nation’s refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill?” asked NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre in his first major speech after Sandy Hook.
Federal officials spent several years trying to develop the rule, seeking standards that would maximize safety while minimizing the number of people who were affected. Announced last December, it directs the Social Security Administration to share names of disability recipients who are deemed mentally impaired and have a representative payee who receives their monthly disability compensation on their behalf as a result of their mental condition. Under the rule, those names would have been fed into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, meaning they’d be flagged on a gun-purchase background check. The rule was set to kick in next December. The Department of Veterans Affairs has a similar reporting program that’s sent hundreds of thousands of names of “mental defectives” in VA care to the background-check database since it was rolled out in 1998.
Mental health professionals and civil rights activists said it had no basis in science, unfairly stigmatized the disabled, and was so broad it could deprive many high-functioning citizens of their Second Amendment rights.
But the new Social Security reporting rule lacked some of the VA system’s safeguards, and it caught serious flak from more than just pro-gun conservatives. Mental health professionals and civil rights activists said it had no basis in science, unfairly stigmatized the disabled, and was so broad it could deprive many high-functioning citizens of their Second Amendment rights. “Someone can be incapable of managing their funds but not be dangerous, violent or unsafe,” Dr. Marc Rosen, a Yale psychiatrist with experience analyzing vets who couldn’t handle their own finances, told the LA Times in 2015. “They are very different determinations.”
On the other hand, the issue may have been less about the mentally ill than their caretakers. Social Security fraud is already rampant among representative payees who manage the affairs of disabled recipients. The idea that a representative payee could not only siphon dad’s benefit checks, but also make “straw purchases” of firearms for other people, was a real possibility — one that the government never bothered to study or quantify before the Obama rule went into effect.
The Obama rule’s long gestation, brief life, and impending death; however, get at the heart of a knotty gun-policy problem. Virtually everyone in America, including the firearms lobby and Trump, agrees that limiting access to guns by violently disturbed people is a good thing. But just about everyone — from hardcore gun guys to bleeding-heart mental health advocates — also opposes invading Americans’ medical privacy to do it.
Unless, that is, you’re a veteran in the Veterans Affairs system. The VA’s reporting system sent 167,815 names of vets to the national no-gun database between 1998 and 2016. One senator proposed a change to that process last year, but it never got a vote.
So far, it’s not on the congressional agenda this year.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), has long been seen as an apologist for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, whom she met during a secret trip to Damascus in January 2017.
Most recently, a video was posted on Twitter shows Gabbard evading a question about whether Assad is a war criminal.
Since Gabbard is the only active-duty service member running for president — she is a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard — Task & Purpose sought to clarify whether she believes Assad has used chlorine gas and chemical weapons to kill his own people.
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Air Force officials are investigating the death of a man near the north gate of the U.S. Air Force Academy on Saturday night after the NHL Stadium Series hockey game between the Avalanche and the Los Angeles Kings, military officials said Sunday.
‘That cavalier misdirection cannot stand’ — Washingtonians ask judge to reduce ‘extremely noisy’ Navy Growler flights
The Citizens of Ebey's Reserve (COER) is asking a federal judge to require the Navy to roll back the number of EA-18G Growler practice flights at Outlying Field Coupeville to pre-2019 levels until a lawsuit over the number of Growler flights is settled.
COER and private citizen Paula Spina filed a motion for a preliminary injunction Thursday.
According to the motion, since March 2019 the Navy has increased the number of Growlers at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and shifted most of its Growler operations to Outlying Field Coupeville, which is near the Reserve and the town of Coupeville.
"The result is a nearly fourfold increase in Growler flights in that area. Now the overflights subject residents in and near Coupeville to extreme noise for several hours of the day, day and night, many days of the week," said the court document.