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Senate votes to undo Obama-era rule that limits gun access

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The Senate voted this week to undo an Obama-era rule that conservatives have argued unduly limits the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

In December 2016, former President Barack Obama's White House issued a rule requiring the Social Security Administration to report anyone needing third-party assistance to manage their Social Security benefits to be placed in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which would bar them from purchasing a firearm.

A rule, put in place by former President Barack Obama in December 2016, requires the Social Security Administration to report anyone needing assistance to manage their Social Security benefits because of  "subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition or disease" be added to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which would bar them from purchasing a firearm.

A similar rule was first considered following the 2012 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, but the rule was not actually implemented until the final year of the Obama administration.

It was determined in 2014, according to The New York Times, that shooter Adam Lanza suffered from severe psychiatric ailments that went "completely untreated in the years before the shooting" because his mother, who was fatally shot during the attack, failed to heed calls from Yale University medical experts about his mental health.

While Democrats have argued the rule is necessary to prevent mentally unstable individuals from having access to guns, Republicans argue that the rule is a pretext to restrict Second Amendment rights.

"This regulation unfairly stigmatizes people with disabilities," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said this week, according to the Washington Examiner. "If the regulation is not repealed, it will allow the agency to very unfairly deprive Social Security recipients of their Second Amendment rights."

"This is essentially a national gun ban list," he added.

Grassley and other Republicans in Congress, have argued that the Obama-era rule is too vague and wrongly prevents certain people from owning or purchasing a gun. And the National Rifle Association supports cutting the controversial rule.

In a largely party-line vote on Wednesday, the Senate voted 57-43 to nix the rule following a similarly party-line vote — 235-180 — in the House of Representatives earlier this month, the Examiner reported.

In 2015, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), who voted to overturn the Obama mandate, said in a statement that he was against an SSA rule on gun ownership because it "is a blatant infringement on the Second Amendment rights of millions of Americans." Three other Democratic senators — North Dakota's Heidi Heitkamp, Indiana's Joe Donnelly and Montana's Jon Tester — and Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, voted with the Republicans.

Democrats argued against the vote, noting that the SSA rule allows those who feel they've been incorrectly placed in NICS to appeal the decision. "Anyone who thinks that they have been unfairly affected can appeal, and the likelihood is substantial that they are going to win," Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said.

However, given Republicans control both the House and the Senate, the Congressional Review Act made it possible for conservatives to walk back the last-minute Obama regulation. The Act allows Congress to shoot down recently imposed regulations if majorities in both chambers agree and if the president signs the resolution.

The resolution is now on its way to the White House. Should President Donald Trump sign it, the Obama-era rule will be immediately voided.

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