President Donald Trump’s tweet Thursday highlighting the mental illness of the man charged in the deadly mass shooting at a Florida high school has angered gun control advocates who point to an Obama-era gun checks regulation he repealed last year.
“So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!,” Trump wrote in the tweet.
The tweet suggests the man, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz who is the suspected gunman, should have been reported. (He was by at least one man, who reported him to the FBI.) The tweet also sparked an outcry amongst gun control advocates who noted that Trump repealed an initiative last February that that would have made it harder for people with mental illness to buy a gun.
The Obama-era regulation, which was enacted after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, would have required the Social Security Administration to send records of beneficiaries with severe mental disabilities to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The measure would have affected about 75,000 people found mentally incapable of managing their financial affairs.
The House voted in February 2017 to overturn the Obama Administration rule, one of several regulations instituted by the former president that were undone last year using a law known as the Congressional Review Act. The CRA allows Congress to overrule recently enacted regulations passed by the executive branch.
CRA measures must be signed by the president. Which means it’s rarely used since a sitting president wouldn’t reverse their own regulations. But it did come in handy for Trump, who used it get rid of a number of regulations Obama enacted in his final months in office, including this initiative.
To be clear, the rule had opponents. It wasn’t just the NRA that wanted the rule rolled back.
Disability rights groups also objected to the bill. The American Civil Liberties Union joined the protest and in a letter to members of Congress, urged for its repeal. “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,” the letter says. “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.”