Fact Check: Obama’s Social Security Administration Gun Grab

The National Rifle Association put out the following rebuttal to a Politifact article that accused the nation’s gun lobby of blowing smoke with respect to the Obama administration’s Social Security gun grab.

The NRA response was authored by Catherine Mortensen, a media liaison for the group’s Institute for Legislative Action.  She fact-checked the fact checkers!

Fact Check 

A recent Politifact article attempted to fact check news reports about the Obama Administration’s effort to strip the gun rights of millions of Americans who receive social security and disability benefits who also have a representative payee – someone who handles their finances.

Politifact failed to consult the most relevant source of all for their story, federal law, as a result, they got it wrong.

Politifact’s website identifies the writer as a “Politifact intern.”

The following Politifact claims are FALSE:

  1. “The new policy would not ban all Social Security Administration (SSA) recipients from owning guns. Rather, it would only affect the small fraction who are deemed mentally incompetent, and who are thus are barred from purchasing guns under the law.”
  2. “The policy would not take away guns from people who already own them. There is no indication that this policy would take guns away from people who already own guns. Rather, the policy would affect the ability of some mentally incompetent people from buying new guns.”

The facts:

  1. Social Security Administration recipients who have a representative payee have not been deemed “mentally incompetent.” That is not a legal term recognized in federal law as it relates to prohibitions against acquiring or possessing firearms.
  2. The federal prohibitions against acquiring or possessing firearms apply to those “adjudicated as a mental defective.”
  3. Under the proposed new policy, individuals who have representative payees would lose the right to possess any guns they might currently own and would be prohibited from purchasing new firearms.
  4. The term “adjudication,” refers to a determination made after a judicial-type process that includes various due process protections. In no case does the federal law describe or contemplate the type of prohibition by bureaucratic fiat exercised by the SSA in developing its guidelines for those with “representative payees” assigned to their accounts.
  5. The SSA’s representative payee system is not the type of process envisioned by federal firearms statutes.
  6. Since 1968, federal law has barred the possession or acquisition of firearms by anyone who “has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution.”[1]
  7. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has issued regulations that define an “adjudication” as a “determination by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority that a person is, as a result of marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease: (1) Is a danger to himself or to others; or (2) Lacks the mental capacity to contract or manage his own affairs.” This includes a finding of insanity or incompetency in a criminal case.[2]
  8. “Committed to a mental institution” is defined as a “formal commitment of a person to a mental institution by a court, board, or other lawful authority.” The definition makes clear that “[t]he term does not include a person in a mental institution for observation or a voluntary admission.” The Supreme Court has held that an involuntary commitment is a serious deprivation of liberty that requires due process of law under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.[3]
  9. Common reasons SSA beneficiaries request a representative payee include:
  •  Individual lives far from banks and grocery stores and may wish to have a family member or friend make bank deposits and grocery purchases for them;
  • individual may not own a car and needs help with banking and shopping;
  • individual may simply want help paying bills, or
  • individual may not be good at balancing their checkbook.


[1] 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(d)(4), (g)(4).

[2] 27 CFR § 478.11.

[3] Addington v. Texas, 441 U.S. 418 (1979).

About the author: S.H. Blannelberry is the News Editor of GunsAmerica.

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • David March 3, 2017, 6:29 am

    So this rule would bar anyone with an accountant too. As long as they were drawing SS benefits? So if you went to HR block for taxes you could be barred under this rule? And why would a government benefit give the government the right to remove anyone’s rights? They are a entitled government money program that for all its good intentions is still a benefit.
    Its like saying if someone got a pair of glasses because they couldn’t see on their own and got Social Security Benefits they should be barred from reading books or speaking their minds or practicing their faith. If one right is as equal as any other.
    Yeah this kind of thinking is the same we would have had with Hilary and I’m glad we have Trump. He spends his days in the real world. Not fantacy world where things should just happen for you. Wondering why you are not 50 points ahead.

    • Bike Mann March 4, 2017, 9:56 am

      It’s basically, too, a small incremental preventer of older vets, americans, retirees that usually have enough weaponery to resist any govt. take over of gun control. Every piece of the gun owning citizenry that can be forced or removed from legally owning a weapon will be included when the end of our country and marshall law becomes the rule.

  • christopher greene June 6, 2016, 10:18 am

    I am a strong pro gun rights advocate. That being said, as an adult protective services investigator for over 15 years, there is no way I would want any of the multitude of people I have had contact with who needed representative payees to have access to a weapon.

    • Edodaniel January 3, 2017, 7:57 am

      “ANY OF THE MULTITUDE …” is rather strong for someone who claims to be “pro gun” and indicates that your “investigations” were less than thorough OR that you actually only “investigated” a VERY LIMITED NUMBER of persons with designated payees.

      I know four specific individuals who have designated payees for the simple reason that their hand shakes enough that their signature on checks (including endorsements) doesn’t look like what is on the bank’s signature card. They are still steady enough that they can handle a firearm safely and can still shoot accurately enough to hit a man sized target within the generally accepted 7yard range. I also know two who spend most of their time on their rather remote Alaskan and Canadian properties but still have numerous financial responsibilities that need quick attention that might be easily accomplished while away from home IF A MEANS OF LONG DISTANCE COMMUNICATION such as phone or Internet were available but phones loose signal about two hours flight time before the plane ride ends at their property.

      I suggest you do some actual investigating rather than rubber stamping whatever ANOTHER incompetent person has done.

      • tom February 17, 2017, 6:07 am

        I agree that edodaniel. We need to sift out of our conversations what is now being called “fake” news. I also own several weapons and enjoy shooting.

      • Bike Mann March 4, 2017, 9:58 am

        Thank you for clarifying his limited statement and why anyone in his supposed position would advocate what his ‘insight’ suggested.

    • David March 3, 2017, 6:38 am

      I’m a liberal gun grabber. Having said that I think that there are plenty of people out there who shouldn’t have guns and on SSI and if they are so bad. They might have a criminal record and that would keep them from having guns. So blanket banning of people right who can still pass a background check isn’t good enough and we should use anything to use against someone from buying a gun. If it sounds scary enough maybe no one will point out how wrong it is like with the Domestic Violence rule that we passed. It allowed guns to be grabbed from anyone who argues with their spouse and it crosses from a felony conviction to a misdemeanor charge in order to bar someone. Not even a conviction is needed. Just someone accusing another of violence. So yeah. screw you right to due process and the right to keep and bear arms. It shall be infringed as long we can get away with it little by little. Before you know it, it will be gone.

      • Rick March 3, 2017, 10:54 am

        Typical response from a whining Liberal/snowflake. When Liberals don’t like something all of us are wrong for liking it, this is an absolute asinine way of thinking. David can’t even make complete sentences that make sense but he wants “guns grabbed” . He also thinks if it is “scary” enough maybe no one will point out how wrong it is. Well maybe if we point out how “scary” enough it is that people of this mentality are allowed to be loose on the street with out proper supervision we can get them committed somewhere so that they can be supervised………

      • BluNos March 4, 2017, 2:08 pm

        I have a nine year old grandson that has a better command of the English language than you. Because of this I think your First Amendment rights to post on this or any other web sight should be revoked; using the same idiotic logic that Obama and you portray!

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