Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa

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Disability & Civil Rights Groups Support Repealing Social Security Rule

Feb 15, 2017

Prepared Senate Floor Statement by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
Repealing the Social Security Administration’s Improper Rule to Report Beneficiaries to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System
February 15, 2017
 
Mr. President,
 
Before we vote on the resolution of disapproval this morning, I want to reiterate several important facts.
 
This resolution of disapproval is bipartisan.  The resolution is also supported by 23 groups, mostly disability rights groups.
 
The disability groups believe that this agency regulation will unfairly stigmatize those with disabilities. And they are right. The American Civil Liberties Union has said:
 
“We oppose this rule because it advances and reinforces the harmful stereotype that people with mental disabilities, a vast and diverse group of citizens, are violent and should not own a gun.  There is no data to support a connection between the need for a representative payee to manage one’s Social Security disability benefits and a propensity toward gun violence.”
 
The ACLU has also said:
 
“Here, the rule automatically conflates one disability-related characteristic, that is, difficulty managing money, with the inability to safely possess a firearm.”
 
The agency regulation is defective in many ways. Namely, the regulation does not require the agency to prove a person is dangerous or mentally ill. The regulation also provides NO formal hearing or due process before a person is reported to the gun ban list.
 
Supporters of the gun ban have said that repeal of this regulation will interfere with enforcement of gun prohibition laws—but that is hogwash. We should not let baseless scare tactics confuse this important issue.
 
Important federal gun laws are still on the books even if the agency rule is repealed. We aren’t repealing any laws.
 
The new regulation is inconsistent with existing federal gun laws.
 
The agency still has a duty to report anyone who has actually been adjudicated as dangerously mentally ill to the gun ban list. That is also true of anyone convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence or involuntarily committed to a mental institution.
 
Federal law requires:
 
“If a Federal department or agency…has any record of any person demonstrating that the person falls within one of the categories described in subsection (g) or (n) of section 922 of title 18, the head of such department or agency shall, not less frequently than quarterly, provide the pertinent information contained in such record to the Attorney General.”
 
Repealing this regulation will ensure that disabled citizen's Second Amendment rights are protected. Those rights will no longer be able to be revoked without a hearing and without due process. It will take more than the personal opinion of a bureaucrat. 
 
An existing statute requires agencies to report individuals to the gun ban list who are ineligible to possess firearms. That requirement remains intact even if this regulation is repealed. So it is plainly wrong to claim, as has been said, that if the regulation is disapproved, agencies will no longer have to report prohibited persons. 
 
If the supporters of this regulation want to take away people’s gun rights, then they need to acknowledge the government must carry the burden to actually prove the person is dangerously mentally ill. And the government must provide due process before doing so.
 
They need to go back to the drawing board.
 
This rule is inconsistent with the Constitution. Therefore, it must be repealed, and this resolution must be approved.
 
I yield the floor.
 
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