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The latest mass shooting at a school in Florida is once again reigniting the debate over gun control and mental health.
But now the media headlines are blaming President Trump because, they say, he signed a bill that actually made it easier for people with severe mental health problems to get guns.
Is that true?
Let’s give it a Reality Check you won’t get anywhere else.
19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, police say, is the man responsible for gunning down at least 17 teenagers at a Florida high school.
We now know much more about Cruz’s background, which include a number of very disturbing reports of police calls to his home.
According to police records obtained first by CNN, police responded to Cruz’s home 39 times over a seven-year period.
Details about the calls to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office have not yet shown if all involved Cruz.
What do we know about the calls police were responding too? According to KTLA, those included calls of a “mentally ill person,” “child/elderly abuse,” “domestic disturbance” and “missing person.”
We also know that, according to the New York Times, “Last fall, a bail bondsman in Mississippi spotted a disturbing comment on his YouTube channel.”
‘Im going to be a professional school shooter.’
“The bondsman, Ben Bennight, took a screenshot and flagged the comment to YouTube.” And he even “left a voicemail message at his local F.B.I. field office alerting it to the comment.”
The name of the person who wrote that comment? Nikolas Cruz.
And there is more. ABC News reports that law enforcement sources say Cruz claimed “he heard voices in his head, giving him instructions” for the attack. And those “voices were described as ‘demons’.”
So to summarize, at this point it appears that Cruz very likely suffered from extreme mental health issues.
And yet, he was able to legally buy a Smith and Wesson M&P 15 .223, according to Peter Forcelli, special agent in charge of the Miami office of the ATF.
According to USA Today, “Federal law allows people age 18 and older to legally purchase long guns, including this kind of weapon. With no criminal record, Cruz cleared an instant background check via the FBI criminal database.”
According to the Gun Control Act of 1968, if somebody is “‘adjudicated mentally defective’ or has been ‘committed to a mental institution’,” he is prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law.
Cruz had not been flagged by the proper authorities. So what was the response from the media?
That it is President Trump’s fault because, they say, he and the Republican Party have actually made it easier for people with mental health problems to buy assault weapons.
So is that true? Did the GOP pass, and then President Trump sign, a repeal of an Obama-era directive to keep guns out the hands of people with severe mental illness?
No, that’s not actually what happened.
What did happen?
HJ Resolution 40 was signed by President Trump on February 28, 2017, days after his inauguration.
According to the BBC, “It repealed an Obama-era rule that would have affected about 75,000 US citizens who are too mentally ill to handle their own disability benefits.”
The Obama measure covered those of “marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease.”
“It also ordered the US Social Security Administration, which administers benefits, to add these names to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.”
And this is what media is jumping all over.
But what they are not telling you is the incredible groundswell of opposition to the this rule from at least 15 mental health organizations, including American Association of People with Disabilities. And even the ACLU led the charge against this measure, saying it was unconstitutional and wrong.
Wrong, because, according to the Seattle Times, about 2.7 million people currently receive disability payments from Social Security for mental health problems. Another 1.5 million have their finances handled by others for a variety of reasons, according to the LA Times.
Those reasons may have nothing to do with mental illness. And they, those 1.5 million people, are who would not be allowed to purchase a gun.
Dr. Marc Rosen, a Yale psychiatrist who studied how veterans with mental health problems managed there money, points out, “Someone can be incapable of managing their funds but not be dangerous, violent or unsafe.”
And the ACLU’s opposition letter rule states:
“We oppose this rule because it advances and reinforces the harmful stereotype that people with mental disabilities, a vast and diverse group of citizens, are violent. There is no data to support a connection between the need for a representative payee to manage one’s Social Security disability benefits and a propensity toward gun violence.”
So what you need to know is that the Obama-era rule allowed one federal agency, the Social Security Administration, to be judge, jury and executioner of whether millions of Americans can purchase guns, based upon whether some else handles their finances.
Meanwhile, a 19-year-old who has the police come to his home 39 times in seven years somehow goes unflagged.
At the 11th hour, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered a review of the FBI and DOJ for mishandling tips about Cruz, stating “It is now clear that the warning signs were there and tips to the FBI were missed. We see the tragic consequences of those failures.”
What will result from this investigation remains to be seen. But if legislation is created to protect against people with violent and dangerous mental health conditions buying guns, then it needs to be crafted in a way that actually works.