Because most people read headlines and ignore the articles underneath, both Twitter and Facebook were full of talk last night about the perfidy of the House. As is customary, the NRA was denounced, as was Paul Ryan, President Trump, and the United States in general. “What are they thinking?” was the general tone of the commentary — and it was invariably asked in the pursuit of dudgeon rather than of truth. But had the obligatory what-the-hells been offered in earnest, those who were stomping their feet would have discovered that all was not as it seemed. The House did indeed reverse an Obama-era rule yesterday afternoon, but that rule was neither “gun-buyers must obtain background checks” nor “the mentally ill are barred from buying guns,” and the measure was by no means an NRA initiative. The NRA was supportive, of course — that’s why it exists. But so was the American Civil Liberties Union. So were a host of disability groups. So was much of the medical community. And, unusually for a Second Amendment question, this one didn’t break down along the usual political lines.
And why would it, given the details? Here’s the American Association of People with Disabilities explaining what was at stake:
This rule would require the Social Security Administration to forward the names of all Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit recipients who use a representative payee to help manage their benefits due to a mental impairment to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
Or, in layman’s terms: The rule would have allowed bureaucrats within one of our federal agencies to bar American citizens from exercising a constitutional right — and on the highly questionable grounds that to be incapable of managing one’s finances is, by definition, to be a “mental defective.”
It is a rare day indeed on which the NRA, the GOP, the ACLU, and America’s mental health groups find themselves in agreement on a question of public policy, but when it happens it should at the very least prompt Americans to ask, “Why?” That so many mainstream outlets tried to cheat them of the opportunity does not bode well for the future.