We Will Remember Republicans Allowed The Severely Mentally Ill To Buy Guns



Donald Trump understands full well the American attention span is vanishingly short. Round-the-clock cable news shows and always-on internet ensure that no matter what he does, the public won’t have long to contemplate, evaluate, or work up a healthy distaste for his actions because there’s always something new coming in a matter of hours, or less. This is not a bug; it’s a feature.

Buried in last week’s blitzkrieg of news, Trump signed a Congressional resolution nullifying a regulation designed to prevent people with severe mental disorders from purchasing guns. The now-rescinded rule would have added 75,000 recipients of disability insurance benefits for mental health reasons, and who require a “representative payee” to manage their financial affairs, to the national firearm background check database.  All have gone through an extensive process of being determined “adjudicated as mentally defective.”  They would be notified of their inclusion in the database and could appeal.


The language used to rescind the rule was bland and opaque: “Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the Social Security Administration relating to Implementation of the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 … and such rule shall have no force or effect.” Trump signed the bill without the pomp and publicity that usually attends other Presidential signings. News of his action was buried at the bottom of a routine White House email listing recent Presidential signings.


The NRA is, of course, thrilled that the rights of the mentally incompetent to purchase lethal weapons has been affirmed. A spokesman for the organization proclaimed that Trump’s action “marks a new era for law-abiding gun owners, as we now have a president who respects and supports our arms [sic].” But the administration’s uncharacteristic silence about the signing suggests that it is aware that few Americans, outside of gun rights absolutists, will be thrilled about people with incapacitating mental illness queuing up to buy guns.

Public reaction and debate over this rescinded rule could have dominated the news cycle for weeks under normal circumstances. But we’re already a dozen scandals and controversies beyond this signing.  Through a bevy of distractions, Trump and Republicans quietly managed to sneak this one by, leaving it on the trail of lies, cover-up, scandal, emoluments, recusals and resignations.  And while it didn’t stick in the news cycle, we’ll remember it well when the next person with a severe and documented mental illness legally purchases firearms and mows down innocents.

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