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New Gun Background Check to include Social Security Disability Recipients USA has seen some of the worst school and college shootouts in the past that have created uproar about the laws governing firearms possession. One such particular shootout that occurred in 2013 was that of Sandy Hook Elementary School. The perpetrator of the crime had been diagnosed with a mental illness and was advised to seek medical advice. After the mass shootout the Obama administration came out with a proposal in 2015 to amend the background check system to include people who receive social security benefits because of some mental disability. The rule would require the social security administration to report such people.These rules sparked debate all over country with experts discussing the various pros and cons of the rule.What the new rule means?
USA has a NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) which has a database containing more than 13 million records. This system was created through the Brady Act. The act was named after James Brady who was shot at during an assassination attempt on then President Ronald Reagan.
The records in the NICS system are entered at all three levels, national, state and local. At the time of the purchase of firearms the dealers are required to check the NCIS database before finalizing any arms deal. They can do this through a phone call or by using a computer. Though they can get to know the result in minutes, a 5 day waiting period it is mandated by the federal agency. By conducting this background check they come to know that the person whom they are selling the firearm has no criminal records. The person should not be a drug addict, illegal immigrant, felon or a fugitive.
Later on it was discovered that the system had inconsistencies and was not a foolproof way of verifying about the prospective buyers mental state. Before the new rule was applied the NCIS database did not contain any information about people seeking social security benefits due to any mental disability. These loopholes became visible only after more tragic shoot outs took place.
The Virginia Tech Shooting is an example in this case. After the shooting it was found that the shooter was mentally ill. Similar was the case of the shooter of the Sandy Hook School incident. After the Sandy Hook school shootout, the need was felt to include people who have been deemed incapable of carrying their own affairs. This would mean people with mental disabilities who are dependent upon others to take care of their financial affairs would be included in the background checks. These people were perceived to be potentially dangerous to the society and possession of firearms would be unsafe in their hands.
The aim of the amendment was to fill gaps in the existing laws and to make the gun control rules stronger and more effective. As per the rule the NCIS database would include people who are of below normal intelligence or have any mental illness or disease or are mentally incompetent to handle their affairs.
Who all are affected by the new rule?
People who have been medically proved to have mental problems making them incapable of carrying out their financial transactions will be affected by this new rule. This would mean people who are unable to perform any work regardless of age or gender due to their mental disability will be included in the database. With their inclusion in the NCIS database they would be barred from buying any firearms. These people can apply for an appeal to remove their name from the database. If their appeal has a successful outcome their names will be deleted from the database. Till now 2.7 million people are seeking social security benefits due to some or the other form of mental disability. Obviously these people pose a potential danger to gun ownership. But there are 1.5 million people who are getting their financial affairs handled by others due to some other reason. These could be people who are above 80 years of age or veterans who are unable to manage their affairs.
Veterans who are come under the VA (veteran affairs) beneficiaries program and have their financial affairs managed by the appointment of fiduciaries would also be affected by this act. Criticism of the New Rule
The new rule has been heavily criticized from various quarters. Medical experts and veterans believe the rule to be over generalized. The medical fraternity believes that due to the implementation of the new rule people would avoid getting medical treatment for their mental problems. Such people might feel that if they seek medical advice they would be barred from keeping weapons.
According to doctors there are various other reasons why people do not manage their financial affairs. It could be that they are not good at anumbers or have poor memory. These people are definitely not violent or pose any threat to the society. Due to the new background check rule such people would also be unfairly affected. Same is the case of veterans who are incapable of managing their affairs for many reasons. Before the new rule was implemented these people could file an appeal and get their names off the list. They proved that they do not pose any danger to anyone. But after the implementation of the new rule very few appeals have been successful.
Many people believe that the rule is an infringement on the basic rights of people. Just because someone has been appointed by a person with disability to take care of his affairs does not mean that person becomes ineligible to buy firearms.
The appeal process of the rule has also come under severe criticism. The onus of filing an appeal and proving that he is not a danger to the society is with the person who has been barred from purchasing firearms. It is quite possible that the person would be unable to bear the cost of the medical proof needed.
First and foremost the misconception about the new rule needs to be cleared. People are misconstruing the new rule thinking that it applies to all persons seeking social security benefits. This rule does not apply to all. It only aims to include people in the background checks who have been medically deemed unfit to manage their own affairs. People who are seeking social security benefits due some mental disability would only be included as per the new act. These people would also be able to appeal to exclude their names from the list. Though the new rule would exclude a large per cent of people from keeping firearms it would ensure that at least a per cent however small of people who can be potential danger to the society would be barred from keeping firearms thus leading to a more safe and secure country.