Democrats are bucking civil-liberties and disability groups and trying to revisit a controversial gun measure that Trump rescinded

Bill Pascrell

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Bill Pascrell
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  • Democrats want to bring back a rule barring certain Social Security recipients from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
  • The Trump administration repealed the rule after opposition from Republicans and civil rights groups.

WASHINGTON – A group of House Democrats want to bring back a rule that would add thousands of Americans with mental disabilities to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), despite rare unity from Republicans and progressive groups opposed to the measure.

Reps. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey and Carolyn Maloney of New York unveiled their plan on Tuesday to reinstate an Obama-era rule that would add Social Security recipients who cannot manage their benefits due to mental health issues to the NICS database.

The rule, which President Donald Trump overturned last year, was also largely opposed by progressive groups. The American Civil Liberties Union condemned the measure as unfair and discriminatory.

“The thousands of Americans whose disability benefits are managed by someone else range from young people with depression and financial inexperience to older adults with Down syndrome needing help with a limited budget,” wrote the ACLU counselors Vania Leveille and Susan Mizner. “But no data – none – show that these individuals have a propensity for violence in general or gun violence in particular.”

“Adding more innocent Americans to the National Instant Criminal Background database because of a mental disability is a disturbing trend – one that could be applied to voting, parenting or other rights dearer than gun ownership,” the ACLU counselors added. “We opposed it because it would do little to stem gun violence but do much to harm our civil rights.”

Nevertheless, Pascrell and Maloney are pushing forward with their proposal to bring the rule back. In a press conference Tuesday, Pascrell dismissed concerns over due process and discrimination.

“If could protect people’s lives, I may have to reinterpret due process again and again, which the courts do,” he said. “So we’re not trying to violate due process here, we’re trying to protect people. And that’s good enough for me.”

Pascrell added that the ACLU’s agreement with 23 national disability groups and the Trump administration do not matter to him, despite the rare circumstance.

“I don’t check who’s with this and who’s not with this. That doesn’t change my mind in the least,” Pascrell said. “I don’t want folks who have serious mental problems to be able to go in and purchase a gun. Period. So I don’t care if the church is against it – and they weren’t against it. I don’t care.”