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Protecting the Rights of Everyone; Keeping Separate Firearms and Mental Health Reform
May 5, 2016
By: Paul Gionfriddo, Theresa Nguyen, Nathaniel Counts and Kelly Davis
Advocates have been awaiting – and many dreading – a proposed rule from the Social Security Administration (SSA) relating to firearms ownership among people with certain disabilities.
The rule was proposed today.
Mental Health America understands and acknowledges the challenge that SSA faces in implementing the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 (the Brady Act), as amended by the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 (NIAA), through the proposed rule offered today.
The Brady Act – which is the current federal law – states:
[I]t shall be unlawful for any licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer to sell, deliver, or transfer a handgun to an individual who is not licensed under section 923, unless . . . the transferor has received . . . a statement that the transferee . . .has not been adjudicated as a mental defective or been committed to a mental institution
The NIAA provides additional guidance and funding for the federal and state governments to implement this law.
MHA appreciates the attempt made by the SSA to protect rights by notifying individuals of the SSA’s intent to report their records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), and providing a process for individuals to have their names removed from that list.
MHA has fought throughout our 107 year history to ensure that individuals with mental illness are not placed on registries. Registries threaten individual rights and create disincentives for individuals from seeking necessary treatment and services. The SSA works hard to provide benefits and supports to individuals with mental illness. MHA wants to ensure that individuals continue to use these crucial supports to further their recovery.
Mental illness should not be a criterion for inclusion on any list that abridges individual rights. This Administration has long been a champion for civil rights for all Americans, and for that we are deeply appreciative. To address the NIAA, MHA looks forward to working with the Administration to continue to protect the individual rights of those with mental illnesses in particular.
MHA is in the process of reviewing the proposed rule, and will work with affiliates and other stakeholders to submit recommendations in the coming months.
Given the issues that are raised and are being addressed through this proposed rule, MHA strongly urges members Congress to not take up this issue as part of its deliberations around comprehensive mental health reform this year.