President Trump ended an Obama-era gun law that required background checks to block the sale of guns to people with mental illnesses.
President Obama handed down a series of gun control regulations during his last days in office. One of those regulations aimed to block gun sales to individuals with mental illness through more comprehensive background checks. Congress approved a bill rolling back the regulations in February 2017, and President Trump signed it into law.
Rumors about Trump’s action to rollback a law designed to block gun sales to mentally ill people resurfaced in February 2018. That’s when a former student killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida. School officials said the shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, had been previously expelled and suffered from mental illness. In the aftermath, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said officials must keep guns away from individuals struggling with mental illness. And the president himself appeared to blame the shooting on Cruz’s mental health issues—which led to questions about the background check regulations Trump signed into law in 2017.
President Obama took executive action on gun control on January 4, 2016. The president announced a series of changes—including more comprehensive background checks, additional ATF agents, and $500 million in funding for mental health treatment.
Under the regulations, the Social Security Administration (SSA) would have been required to submit mental health records for beneficiaries to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System:
The reporting that SSA, in consultation with the Department of Justice, is expected to require will cover appropriate records of the approximately 75,000 people each year who have a documented mental health issue, receive disability benefits, and are unable to manage those benefits because of their mental impairment, or who have been found by a state or federal court to be legally incompetent. The rulemaking will also provide a mechanism for people to seek relief from the federal prohibition on possessing a firearm for reasons related to mental health.
The regulations would have also rolled back legal barriers to states reporting relevant information to background check systems.
Republicans were almost universally opposed to Obama’s executive action to enhance background checks for gun sales, along with the NRA. That’s probably not a surprise. But the ACLU and 23 national disability groups also came out against the new laws. The ACLU explained in a statement:
This is about more than guns. Adding more innocent Americans to the National Instant Criminal Background database because of a mental disability is a disturbing trend — one that could be applied to voting, parenting or other rights dearer than gun ownership. We opposed it because it would do little to stem gun violence but do much to harm our civil rights.
Republicans in Congress agreed. They used the Congressional Review Act, which allows the legislature to overturn executive actions taken in the last months of an administration with a simple majority, to repeal the actions. And President Trump signed it into law in February 2017— a little more than a year after the Parkland school shooting.
Based on all that, we’re calling claims that Trump repealed tighter gun control for people with mental illness “truth.”
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