Today, U.S. Representatives Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) and Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY-12) announced their legislation to reinstate the Obama-era mental health background check for gun purchases. The regulation, enacted after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, was rolled back by Congress and repealed by President Trump in February of last year.
"In the aftermath of these tragic mass shooting events, we often hear from those on the other side about how mental health is an issue," said Rep. Pascrell. "However, Congressional Republicans and President Trump chose to make matters worse by rolling back rules to keep individuals with severe mental illnesses from purchasing firearms. We know if it is easier to obtain a gun, gun violence will likely worsen. It's time to call hypocrisy out."
Pascrell continued, "This bill will give the National Instant Criminal Background Check System access to Social Security Administration data on individuals receiving certain federal mental health benefits. In other words, it would simply allow one federal government agency to transfer information to another. But even if this bill passes, we still have a long way to go. With the introduction of this bill, which will help strengthen our background check system, Representative Maloney and I are taking the first of many steps in addressing the gun violence epidemic in this country. No longer can Congress fail to address the issue of gun violence, and I hope my House Republican colleagues will join us in supporting this measure."
"Yesterday, the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School returned to school for the first time since the shooting, but they did not go quietly and they have made clear they will not accept the status quo -- and neither will I," said Rep. Maloney. "One step we can take is to make sure deadly firearms don't end up in the hands of those with severe mental illness. Honestly, we shouldn't even need to introduce this bill -- it was taken care of in 2016. But, the Republican Majority and President Trump repealed the process before it could ever be fully implemented. So, here we are, redoubling our efforts to keep guns out of the hands of individuals who have no business owning them. I challenge my Republican colleagues to explain why they can't support this bill."
In February 2017, President Trump repealed a regulation which sought block the sale of firearms to people with certain mental illnesses. The rule -- which never went into effect before being rescinded -- was part of President Obama's efforts to strengthen the federal background check system in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The rule would have required the Social Security Administration to take the list of people who were deemed so severely mentally ill that they are unfit to handle their own disability benefits and forward it to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The FBI would then incorporate that list in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is used to disqualify people from gun ownership. The rule provided a new way to enforce existing restrictions on gun sales by allowing a transfer of information from one agency to another. According to the AP, the rule would have prevented an estimated 75,000 people with mental disorders from being able to purchase a firearm.