Republicans pride themselves on being law and order types. It’s ironic, then, that they also want lax gun control laws, putting these weapons in the hands of the mentally ill. The twenty first graders and six educators who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012 were shot to death by Adam Lanza, a mentally ill man. He killed his own mother before going to the school, shooting her four times in the head, then took her rifle and drove her car to the school where he ended the lives of those six- and seven- year olds and school personnel. It is the third deadliest mass shooting by a single person in our history. Up until then, Sandy Hook had been a town where violent crime was so rare, only one homicide had been committed in the previous ten years.
President Obama struggled to get tougher gun control laws, but Republican senators, such as Iowa’s Senator Chuck Grassley, argued that such action would violate citizens’ Second Amendment rights.
On April 16, 2007, 32 people were killed and 17 others were wounded when a mentally ill student, Seung-Hui Cho, at Virginia Polytechnic Institute opened fire. President George Bush signed a law making it easier in criminal background checks to identify those who are unqualified to possess guns for reasons of mental health. The Virginia Tech massacre is the second deadliest shooting by a single gunman in our nation’s history.
Then in Orlando, Florida on June 11, 2016, Omar Mateen, whose first wife described him as mentally unstable and mentally ill, entered the Pulse nightclub around 2:00 a.m., during the last call for drinks. Armed with a semi-automatic rifle and semi-automatic pistol, he shot 50 people dead and injured another 58. The massacre helped President Barack Obama finally get a gun control measure in place in December 2016, just as he was leaving office. The regulation required the Social Security Administration (SSA) to identify and report to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) persons with severe mental impairment. Why the SSA? Social Security benefits are paid to those who are too disabled to work because of their lack of mental health. If they are too mentally unstable or mentally ill to work, they were ineligible to buy guns because of the danger they posed. The gun safety measure was one of the final achievements of President Obama’s administration.
Do you feel safe knowing that mentally ill or mentally unstable persons can buy guns and rifles? Is their Second Amendment right more important than the lives and safety of the community?
Under President Trump, Republicans now have free reign to indulge their anti-social tendencies. Despite months of intense protests across the country, they continued to try to take away health care insurance from millions of Americans. They seemed not to understand that shutting off medical coverage has the domino effect of closing down medical clinics, laboratories, community hospitals and health centers, that provide decent paying jobs for other millions of Americans, keeping people employed and the economy moving. They want to go back to the loose oversight that resulted in the 2008 mortgage fraud era that plunged the nation into one of our greatest economic depressions, causing widespread losses of home ownership. (President Trump callously appointed as his Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, who made his $300 million personal wealth by foreclosing on American’s homes.) Their tax reform proposal features eliminating the 1040 Schedule A deductions that many Americans use to lower their tax liability.
With Republicans controlling Congress and the White House, these incomprehensible, hurtful policies began taking hold. President Trump overturned the very rule President Obama put in place to try to make America safer. House Republicans voted to revoke the Obama rule, 235-180, and Senate Republicans later did the same, 57-43. President Trump signed the repeal on February 28, 2017. The National Rifle Association applauded, criticizing the December 2016 rule as “Obama’s unconstitutional gun grab.”
The question is should people who are so mentally ill or unstable that they cannot deposit or manage their own Social Security checks be trusted with guns?
Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) clarified the issue. It’s not about taking away constitutional rights it’s about mental health and background checks.
Senator Will Espero, former long-time chair of the Senate Committee on Public Safety and Military Affairs, agreed: “The president's action will certainly make our communities less safe. Individuals with mental health issues need extra oversight and review. President Trump should have continued Obama's policy. Too often, we hear mental issues contributed to shootings and killings. This is not a second amendment issue. It is about smart, logical policy to keep our neighborhoods and families safe.”
Registered voters seem to agree. According to a Pew Research Center poll, 75% of registered voters who support Trump want stricter background checks for those who want to buy guns. Legislation is often about balancing interests, in this area, weighing the constitutional rights for those who are too mentally imbalanced to work or manage their finances, versus the safety and lives of the community. Republicans in Congress seem to believe that the community interest in staying alive is less important than the right to own guns, even if the buyer is mentally unstable. What makes you feel safer?