Durbin: Instead Of Curbing Gun Violence, Republicans Want To Weaken Gun Laws

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today spoke out against efforts by Congressional Republicans to weaken the federal gun background check system through the Congressional Review Act (CRA).  The CRA effort would repeal a rule issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA) last year that directs SSA to notify the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) when the SSA has determined, on the basis of medical evidence, that a person receiving disability benefits has a mental impairment so severe that the person is unable to perform substantial work and must have a representative appointed to manage the person’s benefits.  This rule is in accordance with the 2008 NICS Improvement Amendments Act, a law that passed Congress unanimously after a mentally ill gunman killed 32 people at Virginia Tech, which directed federal agencies to send relevant mental health records to NICS.
If passed, the CRA effort would repeal the SSA rule and permanently prohibit the SSA from adopting any substantially similar rule in the future, likely barring the SSA from ever implementing a rule to submit mental health records to NICS.
“For months I have been listening to President Trump and Republicans talk about gun violence in the City of Chicago—so what are they doing to save lives in Chicago and across the nation? Nothing. Instead, Republicans are trying to weaken the federal background check system used to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. This law was passed unanimously by Congress after the Virginia Tech massacre and signed into law in 2008 by President George W. Bush,” said Durbin.  “The reality is that gun laws on the books are narrowly drawn when it comes to mental illness.  And so is the rule we are being asked to repeal today.  I urge my colleagues to oppose the resolution of disapproval.”
Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor are available here.
Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.
Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.
Durbin also noted that this Republican effort to keep mental health records out of the NICS system was occurring on the anniversary of the February 14, 2008 shooting at Northern Illinois University where a mentally ill gunman killed five people and injured 17 more.  Durbin cited Patrick Korellis, who was injured in that shooting and who wrote Durbin the following in opposition to the CRA effort: “I was shot in my classroom by someone that was mentally ill, and was able to obtain guns and a lot of ammunition because the background checks weren’t strong enough.  Rolling back some of these background checks doesn’t make any sense, and will allow more people to get through the loopholes.”
Current federal law says that a person who has been “adjudicated as a mental defective” is prohibited from gun possession. The phrase “adjudicated as a mental defective” is defined in current law as: a determination by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority that a person, as a result of marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease: (1) is a danger to himself or others; or (2) lacks the mental capacity to contract or manage his own affairs.

  1. Under the current rule, starting in December 2017, the SSA would begin sending to NICS the name, date of birth, and Social Security number of people who meet each of five threshold criteria.  The person must:
  2. Be between the age of 18 and 65;
  3. Have filed a claim with SSA for benefits based on disability;
  4. Have been diagnosed with a serious, long-term mental disorder;
  5. Have been determined by SSA to be disabled and unable to perform substantial work because of the mental disorder; and
  6. Have been subject to a determination by SSA that the mental disorder is so serious that the person needs to have a representative appointed to manage the person’s benefits.