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Congress just voted to let mentally ill people own guns

Gun control activists rally in front of the White House in Washington, January 4, 2016. President Barack Obama is expected to announce new gun control curbs this week, but he will have to decide whether to take bold action that would likely spark a major legal challenge from opponents or a more cautious route that may be less effective, legal experts said. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX21069

The Senate voted Wednesday morning to eliminate a regulation aimed to stop people with mental disorders from buying firearms. And since the House of Representatives also voted to roll back the rule two weeks ago, the measure — originally enacted in December under Barack Obama — now goes to Donald Trump’s desk.

The president is expected to sign it.

The measure was initially proposed as part of Obama’s push to expand gun control regulations following the 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, when Adam Lanza killed more than 25 children and teachers, as well as his mother. Lanza suffered from ailments like Asperger’s syndrome and OCD.


But critics of the regulation denounced it as too broad. Under the regulation, the names of Social Security beneficiaries with mental disabilities who also use a money manager had to be added to the FBI’s background-check database. That measure would’ve kept about 75,000 people from buying guns, the New York Times estimates, though people could have appealed their placement on the background check list.

In a Senate debate Tuesday, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, argued, “The Second Amendment, as a fundamental right, requires the government to carry the burden to show a person has a dangerous mental illness. This regulation obviously and simply does not achieve that.”

And the ACLU actually agreed with that argument, urging House representatives to vote to roll back the regulation.

“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,” reads a letter the ACLU sent out before the House vote. “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.”

Yet for Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Lanza’s memory clearly still loomed.

“As we have seen these mass shooters walk into places like Sandy Hook Elementary School or a movie theater in Colorado or a classroom in Blacksburg, we know that people with serious mental illness in this country can go buy a weapon and do serious damage with it,” Murphy said in the Senate debate.