News Article Details

Trump makes it easier for mentally ill to get guns

Herald-Standard - 3/13/2017

This just doesn't make sense. In fact, it's absurd. Idiotic even.

The subject, some may say rant, this time: Mentally ill individuals owning guns. Common sense, something many of us, even an overwhelming majority of us, would agree that people suffering with mental illness should not own a firearm. Or even have access to one. But that's not happening. In fact, and this is not fake news, President Donald J. Trump last month just made it easier for thousands of mentally ill people to have guns.

Enforcing the practical reality that anyone mentally ill should not have access to firearms is the sermon we've heard and the outrage that is cited after the far too many mass shootings in the United States, horrific incidents that have resulted in the multiple killing of elementary school children, young people at a concert and even church-goers. Newton, Connecticut, and Charleston, South Carolina, are just two examples of when a mentally ill person gunned down and killed innocent, defenseless individuals going about their everyday lives.

Keeping firearms out of the hands of mentally ill individuals who committed those mass murders would have prevented those killings, we were lectured. Remember the refrain of the anti-gun control supporters, those opposed to even reasonable restrictions to limit gun violence, including universal background checks on gun purchasers: Guns don't kill people. People do.

No, not all mass shootings or random homicides are committed by a mentally ill person. Claiming so only perpetuates an ugly, blatantly false stereotype and misdirects any reasonable solution. But it's equally dismissive to deny any link whatsoever between mental illness and gun violence, and foolhardy to eliminate efforts to lessen the possibility of mentally impaired people harming innocent others, or themselves with a firearm. Not all vehicular deaths after all are the result of a drunk driver behind the wheel, but that hasn't stopped states from rightfully enacting tougher laws intended to reduce and punish drunk driving. Access to guns, unlike alcohol, has a different standard -- the Second Amendment.

Yet even strident Second Amendment defenders such as the NRA, the prerequisite lobbying group whose blessing is needed before any federal gun limit legislation is passed by Congress, has agreed that mentally ill people should not own firearms. Remember, though, the NRA's members favored background checks on gun buyers before the NRA lobbied against universal background checks succeeded. The NRA was for the measure before they were against it. If the NRA is fully four-square against mentally ill people having guns, they should put more muscle behind the assertion. Doing so would show that the organization represents not gun manufacturers but law-abiding gun owners.

And the keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill is the often heard proposition of our elected officials, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kenctucky) and Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), who is the third person in line to assume the presidency should something tragic happen to President Trump and Vice President Michael Pence.

Common sense, the admonitions of elected leaders and the recurring public outcry after each mass shooting mayhem, however, hasn't proven to be enough to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. In fact, it's now a bit easier. Last month, President Trump signed an order reversing a regulation by former President Barack Obama that would have tightened background checks put in place after the 2015 San Bernadino massacre. President Trump did so by signing an order that reversed action by former President Obama denying individuals with declared mental maladies while receiving Social Security benefits from having a firearm.

Here's how USA Today, a national media outlet not singled out as a purveyor of fake news by President Trump, reported on the reversal: 'The Obama administration rule required the Social Security Administration to submit records of mentally disabled people to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the FBI database used to determine whether someone can buy a firearm under the 1993 Brady Bill.

'The rule would have applied to about 75,000 people who were "adjudicated as a mental defective' and who had applied for Social Security benefits, and had a mechanism to notify those affected so they could appeal. But congressional Republicans said the rule could ensnare people who had mental health issues but otherwise were competent to own a gun.'

President Trump, the media savvy, former reality television personality, and 'very' strong defender of the Second Amendment, quietly signed the order behind closed doors. The media was not a witness to the signing. That, too, isn't fake news. It's there in black and white, on paper, with the president's signature. And three of his spokespeople didn't respond to questions about the out-of-the-spotlight controversial signing by President Trump. The president has not been camera shy during the first days of his administration, except when the news is bad, or he doesn't want to promote it.

His campaign pledge was to protect the Second Amendment. His pro-gun supporters embraced him, overwhelmingly voting for him. So why, Mr. President, did you sign the order without media fanfare?

It doesn't make sense.

A resident of Uniontown, Richard Ringer can be reached by email at


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