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NRA Fact Checks Politifact on Social Security Administration Gun Grab

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A recent Politifact article attempted to fact check news reports about the Obama Administration’s effort to strip the gun rights of millions of Americans who receive social security and disability benefits who also have a representative payee – someone who handles their finances.

Politifact failed to consult the most relevant source of all for their story, federal law, as a result, they got it wrong.

Politifact’s website identifies the writer as a “Politifact intern.”

 The following Politifact claims are FALSE:

“The new policy would not ban all Social Security Administration (SSA) recipients from owning guns. Rather, it would only affect the small fraction who are deemed mentally incompetent, and who are thus are barred from purchasing guns under the law.”

 “The policy would not take away guns from people who already own them. There is no indication that this policy would take guns away from people who already own guns. Rather, the policy would affect the ability of some mentally incompetent people from buying new guns.”

 The facts:

  • Social Security Administration recipients who have a representative payee have not been deemed “mentally incompetent.” That is not a legal term recognized in federal law as it relates to prohibitions against acquiring or possessing firearms.
  • The federal prohibitions against acquiring or possessing firearms apply to those “adjudicated as a mental defective.” 
  • Under the proposed new policy, individuals who have representative payees would lose the right to possess any guns they might currently own and would be prohibited from purchasing new firearms.
  • The term “adjudication,” refers to a determination made after a judicial-type process that includes various due process protections. In no case does the federal law describe or contemplate the type of prohibition by bureaucratic fiat exercised by the SSA in developing its guidelines for those with “representative payees” assigned to their accounts.
  • The SSA’s representative payee system is not the type of process envisioned by federal firearms statutes.
  • Since 1968, federal law has barred the possession or acquisition of firearms by anyone who “has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution.”[1]
  • The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has issued regulations that define an “adjudication” as a “determination by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority that a person is, as a result of marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease: (1) Is a danger to himself or to others; or (2) Lacks the mental capacity to contract or manage his own affairs.” This includes a finding of insanity or incompetency in a criminal case.[2]
  •  “Committed to a mental institution” is defined as a “formal commitment of a person to a mental institution by a court, board, or other lawful authority.” The definition makes clear that “[t]he term does not include a person in a mental institution for observation or a voluntary admission.”  The Supreme Court has held that an involuntary commitment is a serious deprivation of liberty that requires due process of law under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.[3]
  • Common reasons SSA beneficiaries request a representative payee include:

 Individual lives far from banks and grocery stores and may wish to have a family member or friend make bank deposits and grocery purchases for them;

 individual may not own a car and needs help with banking and shopping;

 individual may simply want help paying bills, or

 individual may not be good at balancing their checkbook.

 

 [1] 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(d)(4), (g)(4).

[2] 27 CFR § 478.11.

[3] Addington v. Texas, 441 U.S. 418 (1979).


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