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Could You Be Prevented from Owning Guns If You Receive Social Security Disability?

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If you're currently receiving federal disability benefits for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or another mental illness, you likely rely on these payments to keep yourself afloat financially. Even if your mental illness is well managed, it can sometimes be difficult to hold down full-time employment (especially if you have other physical ailments). However, a proposed federal regulation could prevent those who are receiving Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for mental illness from legally owning firearms. What are your options if you find yourself included in this list? Read on to learn more about how this proposed rule could affect you and what (if anything) you can do in response.

What does the new rule propose to do?

Gun-control regulations have been at the forefront of political debate for some time, with advocates for greater gun control seeking to prevent those with mental illnesses, terrorism ties, or other potential risk factors from owning guns. Although the federal Gun Control Act of 1968 (as well as some state laws) can prevent those with certain mental illnesses from purchasing guns, determining who falls into this category can be difficult without a nationwide database of those who have been adjudged to have a mental illness. The Social Security Administration (SSA) had kept its own list of mentally ill disability recipients private despite the federal law.

This new regulation proposes to add certain disability recipients' names and identifying information to the national database of individuals who are prevented from purchasing guns. This means that if you've been documented to be mentally ill and are currently under financial guardianship (i.e., you have a parent or other representative payee manage your SSD or SSI payments and expenses), you may no longer be able to purchase firearms, and depending upon future gun control measures put into place, you may even be required to give up your existing firearms. 

What are your options if you're at risk of being included on this list? 

This rule is still in the proposal stages and has drawn sharp opposition from many SSD and SSI recipients, as well as the National Rifle Association and other interest groups. Fortunately, those who are able to manage their own disability benefits and haven't been appointed a representative payee should be exempt from inclusion; however, if you do have a representative payee, you may be at risk. 

If this list does come to pass and you find yourself on it, you have the right to appeal. By providing a court with evidence that your mental illness is well managed through therapy or medication and that you don't have a documented history of violence, you should have good odds of winning an appeal. 

For more information about social security disability law, contact a firm such as The Nelson Law Firm LLC