Congress blocks rule bar­ring men­tally im­paired from guns

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - NEWS - By Kevin Frek­ing

WASH­ING­TON >> Congress on Wed­nes­day sent Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump leg­is­la­tion block­ing an Obama-era rule de­signed to keep guns out of the hands of cer­tain men­tally dis­abled peo­ple.

On a vote of 57-43, the Se­nate backed the res­o­lu­tion, just one of sev­eral early steps by the Repub­li­can-led Congress to undo reg­u­la­tions im­ple­mented by for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama. The House had passed the mea­sure ear­lier this year. The White House has sig­naled Trump will sign the leg­is­la­tion.

The Obama rule would have pre­vented an es­ti­mated 75,000 peo­ple with men­tal dis­or­ders from be­ing able to pur­chase a firearm. It was crafted as part of Obama’s ef­forts to strengthen the fed­eral back­ground check sys­tem in the wake of the 2012 mas­sacre of 20 young stu­dents and six staff at Sandy Hook El­e­men­tary School in New­town, Con­necti­cut.

Adam Lanza, a 20-yearold man with a va­ri­ety of im­pair­ments, in­clud­ing Asperger’s syn­drome and ob­ses­sive-com­pul­sive dis­or­der, shot and killed his mother at their home, then went to school where he killed the stu­dents, adults and him­self. He used his mother’s guns in the at­tack.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion rule re­quired the So­cial Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion to send in the names of ben­e­fi­cia­ries with men­tal im­pair­ments who also have a third party man­age their ben­e­fits.

But law­mak­ers, with the back­ing of the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion and ad­vo­cacy groups for the dis­abled, op­posed the reg­u­la­tion and en­cour­aged Congress to un­der­take a rarely suc­cess­ful par­lia­men­tary tool de­signed to void reg­u­la­tions that Congress takes is­sue with.

With a Repub­li­can ally in the White House, the GOP has moved ag­gres­sively on sev­eral fronts to re­scind some of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s fi­nal reg­u­la­tions on the en­vi­ron­ment, fi­nan­cial re­port­ing and now guns. Un­der an ex­pe­dited process es­tab­lished through the Con­gres­sional Re­view Act, a reg­u­la­tion is made in­valid when a sim­ple ma­jor­ity of both cham­bers pass a joint res­o­lu­tion of dis­ap­proval and the pres­i­dent signs it.

The House also voted to re­peal three La­bor Depart­ment reg­u­la­tions Wed­nes­day, in­clud­ing a rule that es­tab­lished when states could re­quire drug test­ing for cer­tain laid-off work­ers seek­ing un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance. Crit­ics seek­ing the re­peal said the depart­ment crafted the reg­u­la­tion so nar­rowly that it un­der­mined con­gres­sional in­tent to give states more lee­way to use drug test­ing in their un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance pro­grams.

On the gun rule, Sen. Charles Grass­ley, R-Iowa, spear­headed the re­peal ef­fort, say­ing the reg­u­la­tion un­fairly stig­ma­tizes the dis­abled and in­fringes on their con­sti­tu­tional right to bear arms. He said that the men­tal dis­or­ders cov­ered through the reg­u­la­tion are filled with “vague char­ac­ter­is­tics that do not fit into the fed­eral men­tally de­fec­tive stan­dard” pro­hibit­ing some­one from buy­ing or own­ing a gun.

Grass­ley cited eat­ing and sleep dis­or­ders as ex­am­ples of ill­nesses that could al­low a ben­e­fi­ciary to be re­ported to the back­ground check sys­tem if they also have a third party to man­age their ben­e­fits.

Sen. Chris Mur­phy, DConn., said he didn’t know how he could ex­plain to his con­stituents, in­clud­ing those in New­town, that Congress was mak­ing it eas­ier rather than harder for peo­ple with se­ri­ous men­tal ill­ness to have a gun.

“If you can’t man­age your own fi­nan­cial af­fairs, how can we ex­pect that you’re go­ing to be a re­spon­si­ble ste­ward of a dan­ger­ous, lethal firearm,” Mur­phy said.

Gun rights groups weren’t the only or­ga­ni­za­tions up­set about the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s reg­u­la­tion. The Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union crit­i­cized it, too. The ACLU said the rule ad­vanced a harm­ful stereo­type that peo­ple with men­tal dis­abil­i­ties, “a vast and di­verse group of ci­ti­zens, are vi­o­lent.” More than a dozen ad­vo­cacy groups for the dis­abled also op­posed the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s reg­u­la­tion.

“This heart­less res­o­lu­tion puts the most vul­ner­a­ble Amer­i­cans at risk,” coun­tered Dan Gross, pres­i­dent of the Brady Cam­paign to Pre­vent Gun Vi­o­lence. “Make no mis­take, this vote was re­ally about deep­en­ing the gun in­dus­try’s cus­tomer pool, at the ex­pense of those in dan­ger of hurt­ing them­selves or oth­ers.”

On the la­bor rule, Mis­sis­sippi, Wis­con­sin and Texas are among the states seek­ing more flex­i­bil­ity in us­ing drug tests in their un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance pro­grams. Repub­li­cans com­plained that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion reg­u­la­tion un­der­cut that flex­i­bil­ity — and con­gres­sional in­tent.

“I am pretty cer­tain that the peo­ple who I am priv­i­leged to rep­re­sent would be very up­set if they thought some­body was re­ceiv­ing un­em­ploy­ment com­pen­sa­tion while they were on drugs, be­cause they think that is go­ing to make it pretty hard for that per­son to ever get back into the work­force, and they want to be able to iden­tify that,” said Rep. Tom Cole, ROkla.

Democrats ar­gued that Repub­li­cans were sim­ply en­abling states to in­tim­i­date peo­ple from seek­ing un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits.

AP PHOTO/JES­SICA HILL, FILE

In this 2012photo, par­ents leave a stag­ing area af­ter be­ing re­united with their chil­dren fol­low­ing a shoot­ing at the Sandy Hook El­e­men­tary School in New­town, Conn., where Adam Lanza fa­tally shot 27peo­ple, in­clud­ing 20chil­dren. The Repub­li­can-led Se­nate voted Wed­nes­day to block an Obama-era reg­u­la­tion that would pre­vent an es­ti­mated 75,000 peo­ple with men­tal dis­or­ders from be­ing able to pur­chase a firearm.

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