In a losing cause on Feb. 15, Virginia Sens. Tim Kaine (D) and Mark Warner (D) voted against removing a federal regulation that prohibits certain individuals with mental impairments from obtaining firearms.
The rule, proposed during the last few months of the Obama Administration, would place a group of social security disability insurance recipients with mental impairments that use a representative payee into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Congress has 60 working days to remove any new federal regulation with majority votes in both houses and approval by the president. The Senates’ 57-43 vote against the policy followed a similar rejection in the House of Representatives earlier this month by a 235-180 vote. Final repeal now goes to President Donald Trump, who is expected to concur.
The change was not scheduled to go into effect until later this year, but with the likely action by the president it will never take place.
The proposed restriction received backlash from a wide range of public interest groups.
In a letter to Congress, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wrote that the regulation “advances and reinforces the harmful stereotype that people with mental disabilities, a vast and diverse group of citizens, are violent.”
“The rule further demonstrates the damaging phenomenon of ‘spread,’ or the perception that a disabled individual with one area of impairment automatically has additional, negative and unrelated attributes,” the letter said.
The ACLU went on to say it respects the rights of governments to regulate guns, and found this rule went against Americans’ civil rights.
“A disability should not constitute grounds for the automatic per se denial of any right or privilege, including gun ownership,” ACLU representatives wrote.
In a rare statement of agreement with the ACLU, the National Rifle Association (NRA) also came out against the rule on the grounds that it wrongfully denied a group of vulnerable Americans of their right to keep and bear arms without due process.
“Today’s Senate vote was the next step in rolling back some of the egregious government overreach that characterized the Obama era,” NRA Institute of Legislative Affairs executive director Chris Cox said in a prepared statement. “Congress is reversing a last-minute, back-door gun grab that stripped law-abiding Americans of their rights without due process.”
In supporting the regulation, Warner said removing it further erodes the quality of the nation’s background check system and is particularly imprudent given Congress’ ineffectiveness in passing significant gun violence prevention matters.
“Virginia has long been a leader in providing appropriate data to the national background check system, and following the tragic events at Virginia Tech nearly ten years ago, the importance of having a functioning background check system is all too clear,” Warner said in a statement.