March 15, 2017 — Recently, President Trump undid a federal regulation that required the Social Security Administration to forward the names of those who needed assistance planning their finances to the National Instant Criminal Background System. This meant that someone who was incapable of effectively planning their finances without professional help was forbidden from purchasing firearms because they had been deemed to have a disabling mental impairment. Eliminating this regulation restored the right to purchase guns to an estimated 75,000 Social Security recipients.
The idea that someone who is unable to plan their finances without help should lose their right to buy a firearm because they’ve been designated a crazy person is, well, crazy.
But it doesn’t stop there. A regulation is on the books for military veterans that calls for the Department of Veterans Affairs to label vets who require help managing their finances as “mentally incompetent” and forward that information to the NICS. The label would bar sales of firearms to those individuals.
Again, we are seeing a vast overreach here. While many—if not most—would agree that measures to keep guns out of the hands of crazy people are in everyone’s best interest, the forces that are fighting to erode our rights are taking that sentiment and using it against us.
If we agree that crazy, mentally incompetent people shouldn’t be able to buy guns, they simply re-define what it means to be crazy and mentally incompetent.
The result is what the NRA calls a “back door gun grab,” and it’s what I call terrifying. The idea that your basic fundamental rights can be revoked because you need help balancing your checkbook should trouble you no matter what your politics or beliefs are. The idea that mental health awareness and basic agreement that those suffering from serious mental health issues can be twisted to invalidate basic human rights and American values is not a Republicans vs. Democrats problem. It isn’t a Conservative vs. Liberal problem. It isn’t a Right vs. Left problem.
Once things like the need for help with financial planning are accepted as mental deficiencies, it becomes a whole lot easier to label other things a mental disorder and use that label to strip the right to buy guns from American citizens with the full support of the law.
What about someone who has sought help for various mental or psychological issues? Wouldn’t they be easy to label as suffering from a mental disorder? How about the kid who was prescribed Ritalin when he was younger? Obviously, someone thought he needed the medication. Does he lose his rights even if there’s no indication that he’s a danger to anyone? How about people who have gone to marriage counseling? They’re obviously under some stress. Should they have their right to buy guns revoked?
The mental illness awareness risks becoming a terrible slippery slope. These regulations that would bar Social Security recipients or military veterans from buying guns simply because they need help managing their finances are perfect examples of how easily a well-intended effort to make sure dangerous people can’t get guns can be misused by re-defining what is considered “crazy.”
House Committee on Veteran Affairs chairman Phil Roe, a Republican representative from Tennessee, put forward the Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act to repeal the VA requirement that would ban many vets from buying guns.
General David Petraeus has made some headlines by advocating against the repeal, and he uses military veteran suicide numbers as if it’s evidence that those who can’t manage their money should be stripped of their rights. The NRA supports the repeal.
The NRA-ILA’s Chris Cox said, “Receiving assistance to handle personal finances does not mean an individual is unable to safely own a firearm. Our brave men and women in the military should not be stripped of their constitutional rights without due process of law.”
If someone is an obvious-enough risk to have their right to buy a firearm stripped, it should be easy enough to pass more tests before labeling them crazy. The problem is that many in favor of gun control view the desire to buy a gun as crazy itself, and they’re willing to pervert well-intentioned regulations and rational sentiment to undermine our rights. It is our duty to stop them whenever we see them trying.