Gun Ownership and the Mentally Disabled

Q: If I receive Social Security disability benefits, will I be banned from gun ownership?

Social Security disability benefits, (“SSDI”) are be awarded to applicants under the age of 65 who satisfy the government’s definition of “disabled” and who have paid into the Social Security system and amassed the requisite number of work credits prior to becoming disabled. The qualifying disabilities may be physical or mental in nature. Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) is another government disability benefits program, but it is based on need and other qualifying factors.

Social Security disability recipients are understandably confused over the recent enactment and expected swift repeal of new legislation potentially impacting their rights to purchase a gun. Seeking legal counsel from experienced Arizona Social Security Disability attorneys to clarify this and other questions about your rights may be helpful.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) is the database used to exclude certain classes from the ability to buy guns– namely criminals and unstable people. Among the excluded groups are “felons, drug addicts, dishonorably discharged service members, fugitives, and illegal immigrants”. Reportedly sparked at least in part by the Sandy Hook Elementary School and other mass shootings, a new “last-minute” rule was enacted by the Obama administration intended to prevent those with mental illnesses from buying guns. The intended effect of the legislation was to add certain Social Security disability benefits recipients into the excluded classes, namely the “subset of Social Security disability recipients who has been deemed incompetent to handle their own financial affairs”.

Proponents of the legislation argue that allowing people classified with a mental disability to buy guns could be potentially dangerous to both the individual and to the public and that an appeals process exists to bypass the restriction for those mentally disabled recipients who want to challenge its application to them.

Critics of the last-minute legislation argue that it takes away people’s Second Amendment rights without due process and that the wide net it casts is too broad. For example, many disabled people whose benefits are paid to and managed by a third-party payee, may just be forgetful or not be able to manage their money– but it doesn’t automatically mean they are dangerous or violent.  Critics further argue that the appeals process is onerous and that the ban may discourage people who prioritize gun ownership from seeking help for their mental health issues.

In Arizona U.S. Representative Martha McSally’s recent telephone town hall conference, she labeled this gun ban rule as “unfair” and giving “too much power to unelected bureaucrats” in defending her vote to repeal it. Both the Senate and the House approved repealing the regulation which the President is expected to sign into law removing the Social Security disability classification from the gun ban system.

If you are applying to receive or appealing a denial of the Social Security disability benefits, Disability Attorneys of Arizona, Roeschke Law, LLC can help you at any phase of the process. Contact us today at 800-975-1866 for a free consultation. From our offices in Phoenix and Tucson, we represent individuals in all Arizona cities and counties.