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US House votes to end Obama rule on gun background checks

By AFP 3 February 2017

The US House of Representatives voted Thursday to remove an Obama-era regulation on background checks that aimed to prevent the mentally ill from obtaining firearms. 

The Republican-led House voted 235 to 180 largely upon party lines to bar efforts by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to bar disability recipients with mental disorders from owning guns. The legislation now heads to the Senate.

Barack Obama had sought to tighten gun safety legislation during his eight-year presidency but was largely rejected by Congress. 

Instead, he unveiled a series of executive actions in 2015 aimed at reducing the nation’s rampant gun violence, including overhauling the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS.

Under the new action, the SSA would be required to include in the background check system mental health information on beneficiaries who are prohibited from possessing a gun.

The rule guiding the strategy was issued in December, and came into force on January 18, two days before President Donald Trump took the oath of office.

“The Obama administration’s rule is discriminatory and deprives law-abiding Americans of their constitutional rights,” House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte said in a statement after the vote.

“There is no evidence suggesting that those receiving disability benefits from the Social Security Administration are a threat to public safety.”

According to the rule, the government would inform the FBI if and when an individual meets the criteria for inclusion in the background check system “due to a mental health prohibitor,” but would provide no details on the individual’s specific diagnosis.

The rule also had a provision that allowed individuals to contest the prohibition.

Trump last year campaigned heavily on a pledge to uphold Americans’ constitutional rights to bear arms. DM

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