WASHINGTON —The House of Representatives approved its first effort of the new Congress to roll back gun regulations, voting to overturn a rule that would bar gun ownership by some who have been deemed mentally impaired by the Social Security Administration.
The House voted 235-180 largely along party lines Thursday to repeal an Obama-era rule requiring the Social Security Administration to send records of some beneficiaries to the federal firearms background check system after they’ve been deemed mentally incapable of managing their financial affairs.
The rule, when implemented, would affect about 75,000 recipients of disability insurance and supplemental insurance income who require a representative to manage their benefits because of a disabling mental disorder, ranging from anxiety to schizophrenia. It applies to those between age 18 and full retirement age.
Republicans argued the rule, which was vigorously opposed by gun-rights and disability groups, would unfairly stigmatize people with disabilities and strip them of their Second Amendment rights without due process.
“This is a slap in the face for those in the disabled community because it paints all those who suffer from mental disorders with the same broad brush,” said House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va. “It assumes that simply because an individual suffers from a mental condition, that individual is unfit to exercise his or her Second Amendment rights.”
Democrats agreed the government must not stigmatize those with disabilities but said this rule affects a small group with severe, long-term mental disorders preventing them from doing any work. Passage of the resolution puts others at risk, they said.
“These are not just people having a bad day,” said Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif. “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 regulation is among a host that Republicans aim to repeal under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to dismiss an outgoing administration’s recently enacted regulations. It requires only a simple majority vote in the Senate.
Earlier Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said House efforts to block five Obama regulations by the end of this week are “just the start.” The House has also voted to overturn a rule to protect streams from coal mining debris, a rule requiring federal contractors to disclose labor and worker safety violations, and another rule requiring oil, gas and minerals companies to disclose payments to foreign governments.
“In the weeks ahead, we will act on more resolutions to deliver relief from excessive regulations,” Ryan said. “When you think about the fact that the Obama administration was issuing major regulations at a rate of one every three days, this is real sea change.”