Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today gave the following statement on the House floor in support of H.J. Res. 40, a joint resolution to repeal an Obama Administration rule in order to protect Americans’ right to bear arms and due process under the law:

Chairman Goodlatte: Today I rise in strong support of H.J. Res. 40, a joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval of the rule submitted by the Social Security Administration relating to Implementation of the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007.

On December 19, 2016, in the waning days of the previous administration, the Social Security Administration (SSA) published a rule finalizing the criteria for sending the names of certain Social Security beneficiaries to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

Under the rule, an individual’s name will be sent to the NICS if they receive Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits based on having a mental disorder, the person is between age 18 and the full retirement age, and the SSA determines that the person needs a representative payee to manage their benefits.  Individuals who meet these criteria would be prohibited from exercising their Second Amendment right to possess firearms.

This rule is a slap in the face to those in the disabled community because it paints all those who suffer from mental disorders with the same broad brush.  It assumes that simply because an individual suffers from a mental condition, that individual is unfit to exercise his or her second amendment rights.  No data exists to support such an egregious assertion.  In fact, studies show that those who suffer from mental disorders are more likely to be victims of crime rather than perpetrators of crime.

Furthermore, there is a total absence of any meaningful due process protections under the rule.   Currently, citizens lose their right to possess a firearm when they have been convicted by a judge or jury of a felony or misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, when they have been dishonorably discharged after given a hearing, or when they have been deemed a fugitive after being given an option to appear and avail themselves of their due process rights, among other reasons.  All of these have one thing in common: they all provide due process to the affected individual.

Under the SSA rule, the affected party has no ability to defend himself or even introduce evidence before the SSA denies his right to possess a firearm. Additionally, at no time during the process where SSA is seeking to deny someone their Second Amendment rights must SSA make a determination that the individual poses a risk to himself or others.  This is the standard that has long been used to determine if the right to possess a firearm should be prohibited.

Some may point to the rule’s appeals process as providing a form of due process.  However, the appeals process is severely flawed because it puts the burden on individuals to prove that restoring their 2nd Amendment rights would not pose a danger to public safety or be contrary to the public interest.

In every other instance where someone is facing a loss of their ability to possess a firearm, the burden is on the government to prove that the individual should have their rights taken away.  Under this flawed system, the individual bears the burden against the government.  This is not what due process looks like.
During debate on the Rule for this joint resolution I heard a number of reasons from our friends on the other side of the aisle on why they oppose this joint resolution.  Quite frankly, I am shocked at what little regard they have for the disabled community.  The gentleman from Massachusetts claimed that this joint resolution was done at the “bidding of the National Rifle Association.”  Yes, the National Rifle Association does support H.J. Res. 40.  However, what my friend from Massachusetts failed to mention during the debate yesterday was who else supports the joint resolution.

Supporters include:
• American Association of People with Disabilities
• National Disability Rights Network
• Autistic Self Advocacy Network
• The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
• The Arc of the United States
• Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities
• Disability Law Center of Alaska
• National Council on Independent Living
• National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery

Even the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency making recommendations to the President and Congress to enhance the quality of life for all Americans with disabilities and their families, has called on Congress to utilize the Congressional Review Act to repeal this rule.

It was also mentioned and will undoubtedly be mentioned here later today that this rule received over 91,000 comments.  What they didn’t tell you and what I am guessing they won’t tell you today is that the overwhelming majority of the comments opposed the rule.  Opposition wasn’t based on small technical issues.  It was based on the fundamentally flawed concept of the rule. Many of the organizations I mentioned earlier provided comments to the agency.  Rather than listen to the organizations advocating for the rights of the disabled, the previous administration decided to ignore them.

I want to thank my good friend from the state of Texas, Mr. Johnson, for his very hard work on this important issue that affects law abiding citizens in every Congressional district in America.

I am asking my colleagues to support this resolution. Stand with the disabled community. Stand with the Constitution.  Support H.J. Res 40.