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House Republicans vote to expand gun access for mentally impaired

Under a GOP plan, those with severe mental illnesses may not be able to cash a check, but they may be eligible to buy a gun.
A woman points a handgun with a laser sight on a wall display of other guns during the National Rifle Association convention Friday, April 13, 2007, in St. Louis.
A woman points a handgun with a laser sight on a wall display of other guns during the National Rifle Association convention Friday, April 13, 2007, in St. Louis.
When an American suffers from a severe mental illness, to the point that he or she receives disability benefits through the Social Security Administration, there are a variety of limits created to help protect that person and his or her interests. These folks cannot, for example, go to a bank to cash a check on their own.If congressional Republicans have their way, these impaired people will, however, be able to buy a gun. USA Today reported:

The House of Representatives approved its first effort of the new Congress to roll back gun regulations, voting to overturn a rule that would bar gun ownership by some who have been deemed mentally impaired by the Social Security Administration.The House voted 235-180 largely along party lines Thursday to repeal an Obama-era rule requiring the Social Security Administration to send records of some beneficiaries to the federal firearms background check system after they've been deemed mentally incapable of managing their financial affairs.The rule, when implemented, would affect about 75,000 recipients of disability insurance and supplemental insurance income who require a representative to manage their benefits because of a disabling mental disorder, ranging from anxiety to schizophrenia.

The full roll call on yesterday's vote is online here. Note that 97% of House Republicans voted for the measure, while 99% of House Democrats voted against it.While GOP proponents of the bill argued that it's unfair to limit the rights of the mentally disabled, Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), among others, explained, "These are not just people having a bad day.... These are people with a severe mental illness who can't hold any kind of job or make any decisions about their affairs."This did not prove persuasive to Congress' far-right majority, which supported the measure that enjoyed the enthusiastic backing of the National Rifle Association.In terms of the substantive details, the Social Security Administration reports the names of those who receive disability benefits due to severe mental illness to the FBI's background-check system. The House bill intends to block that reporting, making more people eligible to legally buy a firearm.Often, in the wake of the country's brutal mass shootings, Republican policymakers have a reflexive set of talking points, and near the top is something intended to sound constructive: working on mental-health issues is a potential area for bipartisan common ground.Yesterday was a reminder that the gap between the parties on issues such as these couldn't be much greater.And while much of the political world's attention has been focused on Donald Trump's alarming antics of late, let's not overlook the fact that House Republicans have been quite busy this week. The GOP majority voted to make it easier for coal mining debris to be dumped into nearby streams; Republicans approved a measure to allow oil companies to hide payments to foreign governments; and yesterday they moved to expand gun access for the mentally impaired.It's quite an institution.