ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Gun tile

The Obama administration wants to prevent all Social Security recipients from owning guns.

That's the rumor going around.

It's not true, but there are elements of truth in it.

The administration would like to prevent Social Security recipients from owning guns if they don't have the mental capacity to manage their own affairs.

On the surface, the idea sounds like a winner. Nobody wants Grandma Trudy, whose daughter pays her bills because she has a touch of dementia, to open fire out her back window when a dog rattles her garbage can. Or neighbor Dan, whose son lives with him and manages his affairs since he has short-term memory loss, to grab his rifle and use it if his son won't give him the checkbook when he asks for it.

The effort would close a gun loophole and put the Social Security Administration in line with laws already on the book regulating who is reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). That system attempts to keep guns from being sold to dishonorably discharged service members, drug addicts, felons, illegal immigrants and others.

Current federal gun laws do not allow guns to be sold to people who are unable to manage their own affairs due to "marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease," but the Social Security Administration has never participated in the background check system.

What's being proposed is a policy similar to that of the Veterans Administration, which reports the names of gun owners in a category known as "adjudicated as a mental defective." But its only criterion is whether the gun owner has an appointed financial trustee.

In several cases, according to Michael Connelly of the United States Justice Foundation, veterans have been told they could no longer have weapons after being determined incompetent without a hearing, and wanted to see what could be done.

"In every state in the United States," he told World Net Daily, "no one can be declared incompetent to administer their own affairs without due process of law and that usually requires a judicial hearing with evidence being offered to prove to a judge that the person is indeed incompetent.

"This is a requirement of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that states that no person shall 'be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.'"

The Social Security plan, which undoubtedly would snare some elders who have no capacity to use guns, nevertheless has rightly drawn criticism from advocates for veterans and people with disabilities and from gun rights advocates, among others.

"Someone can be incapable of managing their funds," Dr. Marc Rosen, a Yale University psychiatrist who has done work with veterans with mental health problems and their money management, told the Los Angeles Times, "but not be dangerous, violent or unsafe. They are very different determinations."

Other than memory loss, they also might not be handling their money due to past financial problems, past addictions or past gambling problems.

Gun confiscation of any kind is a serious threat, and the confiscation of guns from Social Security recipients judged unable to manage their own affairs is not likely to be the last attempt to ply guns from individual owners.

The administration's January 2013 memorandum, made by President Obama after the Sandy Hook School shootings in Newtown, Conn., in 2012, directs government agency executives to submit to the Department of Justice a plan for "sharing all relevant federal records" with the NICS to help close loopholes in an effort to reduce gun ownership. Files of the departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Transportation also were mentioned for checking, along with "such other agencies or offices as the Chair may designate."

Connelly told WND that list also could be expanded to student loan recipients, food stamp recipients or Medicaid beneficiaries.

The administration's Social Security proposal would affect 4.2 million recipients whose monthly benefits are being managed by "representative payees." Of those, 1.5 million recipients have their finances handled by someone else for a variety of reasons, and 2.7 million people receive Social Security disability payments due to mental health issues.

Gun crimes involving elderly beneficiaries of government funds haven't exactly been rampant, but if it were possible to snare those few individuals whose medical records and past actions make them a risk, the country might be appreciative. But, to date, no definitive government definition exists for people who don't have the capacity to manage their affairs, and the ability to balance a checkbook alone surely can't be the cause of such a designation.

Painting such gun owners with a broad brush is absolutely the wrong thing to do, and confiscating their weapons is not a step the country should take.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT