Trump’s Lethal Reversal of Obama-era Gun Protections

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On February 28, 2017, President Trump signed a bill undoing part of the gun control executive actions enacted in 2016. The particular section concerns database expansion by the Social Security Administration into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

As part of a nationwide response after the Sandy Hook massacre in late 2012, former-President Obama undertook signature executive actions to tighten gun control public policy. These included expanding the national background check system, requiring a license to sell, encouraging mental health treatment, developing gun-tracking programs, including smart gun safety technology, and providing for public health research on the causes and prevention of gun violence.

One might say that making our communities safer from gun violence was one of the former President’s Nobel Peace Prize worthy accomplishments. Thus it comes as no surprise that the Republicans are spearheading deregulation. In part it fulfills partisan promises to gun-rights groups and lobbyists; their constituents in Red states also tend to view gun control measures as an infringement upon the Second Amendment: the right of the people to keep and bear Arms.

Republicans are not merely looking to repeal rules and regulations enacted by the Obama Administration, they want to fully exploit the 60-day window provided by the Congressional Review Act to nullify controversial acts passed in the last six months (going back to May 2016).

The reversal on the SSA rule passed the House (235-180), then the Senate (57-43). The fluctuation in support for and against gun control measures by Democrats and Republicans reflects the lobbying strength of the gun rights groups. Gun rights advocates such as the NRA have not only spent decades perfecting their legislative strategies, they also vastly outspend other legislative action groups.

With a Republican majority and Republican President, bills such as H.R. 1181 are now under negotiation. H.R. 1181, which passed the House of Representatives (240-175), is summarized as follows:

H.R. 1181 prohibits the Secretary of Veterans Affairs from sending the name of an individual to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for inclusion on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, unless there has been a specific determination by a judge, magistrate, or other judiciary authority that such individual is a danger to themselves or others.

H.R. 1181 weakens the ability of NICS being used to include veterans, whether Marine or Special Forces Operative or mercenaries, no matter whether if their mental health is endangered. It is a lethal piece of legislation because NICS was originally designed to speed up the review process rather than slow things down such as judicial review does.

According to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) the bill may even be retroactive:

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) is concerned that HR 1181 would retroactively remove individuals from the National Instant Background Checks System (NICS). Given the high rate of suicide among veterans, retroactively removing individuals from NICS could put veterans in danger. Additionally, in its present form, HR 1181 does not outline a process to determine whether retroactively removed individuals are, in fact, at risk of harming themselves or others.

The issue of retroactive removal of names from the list even has the Veterans Coalition for Common Sense concerned. A group of outstanding retired generals published a letter regarding such bill. They described the suicide rate as 20 veterans per day, and that since 2008, the Veterans Administration had submitted 174,000 records to NICS of which 34,000 suffer from schizophrenia and/or PTSD.

H.R. 1181 would allow these individuals to buy guns, and they might be able to carry them to places where if aggravated, they will commit out a suicidal massacre—exactly what Obama gun-protection legislation aimed to prevent.

CSGV Ladd Everitt’s speech is part of the historic Inauguration Protest of January 2013:

But I must say, this Gun Reform Policy Package that our President announced the other day is the most important reform package for our gun laws in the history of the United States. I want to say that again because this is important: The reform package on gun laws that our President announced is the most important effort that any American leader has ever made to de-escalate the gun violence in this country.              

In 2016 Obama’s Fact Sheet “New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities Safer” noted the necessity for overhauling NICS, which logged in 22.2 million background check requests in 2015. Even though NICS effectively “prevented 2 million guns from getting into the wrong hands,” the President underscored the need for expanding and overhauling the background check system, and including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to ensure licensing of online gun dealers.

Under Trump rollbacks, the number of mass shootings in 2017 has already begun to increase. At to date there are 103 U.S. mass shootings. Overall, 483 persons wounded or killed since January 2017, while during the same period last year only 407 people had been wounded or killed—that’s a seventeen percent increase. People who suffer from anxiety, depression, and other forms of mental illness often don’t recognize when their attacks are arising or the mechanisms by which they seek to transfer or suppress their frustrations.

Unfortunately even former President Obama’s Memorandum on engaging public health research on the causes and prevention of gun violence is probably under Republican repeal—along with all proposals relating to the expansion of mental health coverage for Americans and returning veterans.