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House votes to roll back rule to prevent mentally ill from buying guns

By
Stephen Feller
The House of Representatives voted Thursday to repeal an Obama administration rule that, had it gone into effect, would have required the Social Security Administration to report information on beneficiaries with mental illnesses to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System to prevent them from purchasing firearms. The Senate still must vote on a bill repealing the rule, and President Donald Trump must sign it, to prevent it from going into effect later this year. File photo by Brian Kersey/UPI
The House of Representatives voted Thursday to repeal an Obama administration rule that, had it gone into effect, would have required the Social Security Administration to report information on beneficiaries with mental illnesses to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System to prevent them from purchasing firearms. The Senate still must vote on a bill repealing the rule, and President Donald Trump must sign it, to prevent it from going into effect later this year. File photo by Brian Kersey/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 3 (UPI) -- The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday to repeal an Obama administration rule aimed at keeping firearms out of the hands of people with severe mental illness on the grounds that it may unfairly infringe on their Constitutional rights.

The House voted along party lines, 235 to 180, to repeal a regulation adopted in December requiring the Social Security Administration to send information about people receiving supplemental payments and insurance to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System if they are mentally ill.

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Republicans in the House took the first step toward canceling the rule using the Congressional Review Act. The act allows lawmakers to roll back rules made by the executive branch they don't like within a certain period of time.

"The Obama administration's last minute, back-door gun grab would have stripped law-abiding Americans of their Second Amendment rights without due process," Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, said in a press release. "Today's vote was the first step in revoking this unconstitutional action."

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The rule, which is to be implemented sometime before the end of this year, would require the Social Security Administration to report information on all beneficiaries of disability or supplemental insurance who require help managing their benefits due to a mental disorder for inclusion in the background check system.

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About 75,000 people would have been affected by the rule, which Republicans opposed on mostly Constitutional grounds -- but agreed with Democratic concerns about stigmatizing those with mental conditions.

Democrats say, however, that keeping firearms out of the hands of people with severe illness to prevent their harming others outranks the potential for stigmatizing or infringement on Second Amendment rights. The rule would require those affected to be notified that their information was being included in the database, and the reason, which could be appealed with the Social Security Administration and in court.

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"These are not just people having a bad day," Calif. Rep. Mike Thompson told USA Today. "These are not people simply suffering from depression or anxiety. These are people with a severe mental illness who can't hold any kind of job or make any decisions about their affairs. So the law says very clearly they shouldn't have a firearm."

The Senate needs to vote on the repeal, which cannot be filibustered, and send the bill to Trump for a signature before the rule has been canceled.

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