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Trump Repeals Rule Limiting People With Severe Mental Illnesses From Buying Guns

On Tuesday, Donald Trump signed into law a piece of legislation which overturns an Obama-era regulation designed to prevent those with “severe mental illnesses” from buying guns. Earlier in February, both the House and the Senate voted to overturn the measure, passing it to Trump’s desk for his signature.

The Obama rule, created in response to the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, required the Social Security Administration (SSA) to report those receiving disability benefits for mental illnesses to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The rule was set to be implemented starting December 2017, and would have prevented 75,000 people from buying guns.

Since voting began to overturn the rule, many have voiced their support for and against the measure. In a speech to his fellow Senators, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) urged Republicans to uphold the measure, stating:

If you’re mentally ill, you’re probably more likely to be the victim of violence than you are to be the perpetrator of it. But we do know that in this country, given the fact that weapons are so easy to come by, people with mental illness, serious mental illness, who have an intersection with visions of violence often do great harm.

If you can’t manage your own financial affairs, how can we expect you are going to be a responsible steward of a dangerous, lethal firearm? And we’re talking about a very limited group of individuals here who, by the way, under the regulation, have due process to contest the determination.

Other lawmakers, disability groups and mental health advocates, argued the rule violated the civil rights of those living with mental illnesses. “I have been diagnosed as ‘severely mentally ill’ and to many people I shouldn’t be allowed to own a gun,” Rudy Caseres, a mental health advocate, told The Mighty. “Even though I don’t personally like guns, I see this is a civil rights issue. The restriction cast too wide a net that resulted in people who reject their diagnosis being discriminated against.”

Image credit: Michael Vadon

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