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Republicans Demand Halt of Obama Plan to Use Social Security to Restrict Gun Rights

July 21, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC — This week, reports emerged that the Obama administration is advancing a plan to restrict gun rights by adding to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System Social Security beneficiaries who use a “representative payee” to assist in managing their financial affairs. In response, Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee and Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, sent the following letter to Carolyn Colvin, the acting commissioner of Social Security, demanding that any such plan be abandoned. The text of the letter can be found below.

Dear Acting Commissioner Colvin:

It has come to our attention that the Social Security Administration is considering a policy to provide the names of Social Security beneficiaries who have a “representative payee” to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in an effort to limit 2nd Amendment rights. This would be a dangerous overreach, and we urge you to abandon any such plan.

The representative payee system is vital for beneficiaries who need assistance managing their own finances. Millions of responsible seniors and people with disabilities rely on a representative payee. Simply using this system does not mean beneficiaries are a risk to themselves or others.

Providing information on individuals who have a representative payee to the NICS is a broad overreach of authority and violates beneficiaries’ constitutional rights. This policy runs counter to the aims of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – the 25th anniversary of which we will celebrate this week – and would stigmatize seniors and people with disabilities and isolate them from society at large.  

In a January 11, 2013 letter to Vice President Biden, the National Council on Disability stated its firm opposition to this policy: “Whatever merits such a proposal might seem to present, such benefits are outweighed by the inaccurate and discriminatory inference that would result: equating the need for assistance in managing one’s finances with a presumption of incapacity in other areas of life.”

Old age or a disability doesn’t make someone a threat to society. Having a representative payee should not be grounds to revoke constitutional rights. We strongly urge you to halt any steps to provide information on Social Security beneficiaries or Supplemental Security Income recipients to the NICS.

Please provide your response in regards to whether you will continue to pursue this misguided policy by no later than Friday, July 31st, 2015. 

A PDF of the letter can be found here.