Duke University psychiatry and behavioral science professor Jeffrey Swanson says Congress is right to repeal Barack Obama’s Social Security gun ban because it targets the “vulnerable” rather than the dangerous.
He also points out that the ban tramples due process rights.
Swanson presented his views on the Social Security gun ban in a Washington Post column, where he wrote that the ban “[takes] away the gun rights of a large category of individuals without any evidence that they pose a risk of harm to self or others.” He described Social Security beneficiaries as a “vulnerable group,” one which was easy to target but not one for which evidence suggests a propensity for heinous crimes. And he pointed out that going after beneficiaries based on the fact there is a mental problem that requires them to get help managing their money is an especially weak approach.
He described Social Security beneficiaries as a “vulnerable group,” one which was easy to target but not one for which evidence suggests a propensity for heinous crimes. And he pointed out that going after beneficiaries based on the fact there is a mental problem that requires them to get help managing their money is an especially weak approach.
Swanson summed up the ban, writing, “Social Security beneficiaries with psychiatric disabilities who are assigned a money manager for their disability benefits would be reported to the FBI’s background check database as people ineligible to purchase firearms.” He explained that “the mental health conditions in question might range from moderate intellectual disabilities to depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia,” and then pointed to academic work showing that “the vast majority of mentally ill individuals” are not violent or suicidal.
He points to a study published by Duke which examined “approximately 82,000 people diagnosed with serious mental illnesses in Florida between 2002 and 2011.” Swanson was a researcher in the study and indicates that he and his colleagues “found that those with serious mental health disorders with records in the public behavioral health system were no more likely than the general adult population in Florida to use a gun to harm others (about 213 vs. 217 gun crimes per 100,000 people per year), and they were only slightly more likely to die in a gun-related suicide (about 13 vs. 9 gun suicides per 100,000 people per year).”
Swanson said he believes there are certain categories of people who could have been barred but were not. He points to people with “a history of violence” and those “detained in a short-term emergency hold during a mental health crisis,” among others. But due process must be protected and it was not protected with Obama’s Social Security gun ban.
When the government takes away people’s rights, usually they have a hearing, a chance to contest the proceedings, and legal representation. None of those is provided when a person is assigned a money manager by the Social Security Administration, nor would it be feasible to do so routinely. But when such a determination is later leveraged for a totally different purpose — suspension of a person’s Second Amendment rights — the lack of process becomes a legitimate civil rights concern.
AWR Hawkins is the Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and host of Bullets with AWR Hawkins, a Breitbart News podcast. He is also the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.