Trump strikes a blow for gun rights, and due process

  • 2 March 2017
  • NormanL
Trump strikes a blow for gun rights, and due process

President Trump took a stand for due process and gun rights this week, signing a measure that overturned an Obama administration rule that would have blocked people deemed by the Social Security Administration as having a mental illness from being able to own firearms.

The repeal was backed by both the NRA and ACLU. Not because it will result in the mentally ill stocking up on weapons, but because of the deeper principles at stake:

This regulation, organized via executive action under President Barack Obama, used lists of people on Social Security who have been diagnosed with mental illnesses and also have others handling their finances as a blanket mechanism to potentially deny them gun purchases.

Such a system turns concepts of due process and the right to self-defense on their heads. Those who would have gotten caught up in this list—an estimated 75,000-80,000 of them—would have to fight the federal government to prove that they were not a danger and should be allowed to retain their gun rights. This is the reverse of how it should work. The government is supposed to prove that a particular person's mental illness is a disqualifying factor, not just use inclusion on some government list as shorthand.

Thus, this rule was opposed not just by the National Rifle Association, but by more than a dozen groups that represent the interests of people with disabilities and mental health issues. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also opposed it. They all understood this wasn't really a fight about keeping guns out of the hands of dangerously mentally ill; it was about using bureaucratic tools and data to pre-emptively deny people their rights and then making them fight with the government to prove they should have these rights restored.

Anti-gun groups are displeased by the action. We think its a win for all sides -- and the Constitution.