Cassie Follman ‘20
Under the Obama administration, a rule was passed that restricted mentally ill individuals from purchasing guns and required more extensive background checks in the gun-purchasing process. The rule came as the result of the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting that left 20 elementary school students and six staff members dead. The shooter struggled with mental illness and used guns that were obtained legally.
Backed by the Senate and House last year, Congress recently sent President Trump a bill that would block this rule. President Trump is expected to follow Congress’s decision. Dismantling this rule will once again make guns accessible to people who were previously restricted from purchasing guns, which could have disastrous effects.
The United States has a history of gun violence, and even in the last year alone, countless shootings have taken place. One of the most horrible tragedies was the attack on Pulse nightclub. The victims consisted of young LGBTQ people of color, and the attack was the greatest hate crime in American history. The purchase of the weapons was legal, and an assailant who sought to create fear and cause destruction within the LGBTQ+ community carried out the attack. The specific rule from the Obama administration would not necessarily have an effect on preventing shootings like the one at Pulse nightclub, but this tragedy is a clear sign that more extensive gun control policies are needed in the United States.
Change concerning the United States’ gun policies has been long overdue, but these policies rarely come to fruition. One rare example was the rule that passed during the Obama administration last year. There were critics on both sides of the aisle, with some claiming that these restrictions were unconstitutional, while others declared that the rule was not nearly strong enough and would not diminish gun violence enough. While clearly limited in its powers, some saw the rule as a triumph for at least moving towards reducing gun violence across the nation.
Congress is challenging this rule in hopes of reopening the opportunity for restricted individuals to purchase guns again. This is not a surprising stance from the administration, as Trump has consistently been pro-gun and was endorsed by the NRA. Nor should it be a shock coming from a republican government, as pro-gun is usually one of the policies associated with the party. Nevertheless, the proposal to get rid of the ruling should be troublesome to everyone.
President Trump has continuously claimed that people are dying within inner cities at preposterous numbers, yet he refuses to recognize that access to guns is part of this prevailing issue. Furthermore, he speaks of reducing violence and restoring peace in America, but maintains an open pro-gun policy without limits or restrictions.
Pro-gun groups and politicians are not the only ones who claim that the rule is unjust. Disabled rights groups were particularly critical of the terms of the rule, which, according to The Washington Post, “required the Social Security Administration to send in the names of beneficiaries with mental impairments who also have a third party manage their benefits.” In addition, the American Civil Liberties Union said the rule “advanced a harmful stereotype that people with mental disabilities, a vast and diverse group of citizens, are violent.”
Still, others, such as Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, have countered that the vote to strike down the rule was a “heartless resolution” and that its goal was to encourage a “deepening of the gun industry’s customer pool, at the expense of those in danger of hurting themselves and others.”
The tragic loss of those who are killed by gun violence cannot be undone. The pain and suffering inflicted on those who survived tragedies like the attack on Pulse, Sandy Hook and others cannot be taken away. We must move forward by recognizing the mistakes of the past and prevent them from occurring again. The attempt to dismantle this rule demonstrates a hypocritical aspect of Congress that claims to be protecting the rights of US citizens, but actually endangers them further and leads to the loss of even more innocent lives.