Obama Administration Pushes to Block Some Old People from Owning Guns

Old woman with a gun
Old woman with a gun / AP

In a new push toward gun control, the Obama administration wants to bar certain individuals receiving Social Security benefits from owning firearms if they are deemed no longer able to handle their affairs.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the White House wants the Social Security Administration to weed out beneficiaries who cannot manage their affairs because of what federal gun laws label "marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease" and then report those individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

Established in 1993, the background check system is used to prevent certain dangerous individuals — criminals, drug addicts, illegal immigrants, domestic abusers and others — from obtaining firearms.

While the Social Security Administration does not currently have a process in place to identify beneficiaries who can’t manage their affairs, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been reporting veterans to the background check system who cannot manage their disability or pension payments and are as a result using a fiduciary.

Social Security, in theory, could follow the VA’s lead and report beneficiaries who have been assigned "representative payees" to manage their monthly benefits on their behalf. Currently, roughly 4.2 million people are receiving Social Security benefits under such circumstances. These individuals could be using representative payees because of mild memory loss or problems balancing a checkbook.

Over 50 percent of the veterans reported to the background check system by the VA are over age 80. Congressional Republicans have challenged the policy by unveiling legislation multiple times, most recently introducing the Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act in the House.

Social Security has not yet been reporting individuals to the background check system, the database for which contains the records of 13 million people.