The Coalition for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), the major umbrella organization of disability-related organizations in the United States, has released a letter it sent to Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the President, after a meeting concerning the White House plan to have the Social Security Administration relay information about some individuals who have been appointed representative payees so that they might be prevented from buying guns. CCD opposes the plan because they believe that it would stigmatize those disabled by mental illness.
I am aghast at the CCD position. Do they have any idea how difficult it is to be approved for Social Security disability benefits due to mental illness? Maybe they just accepted without question the talking points of the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA wants people to think that you get a representative payee if you're suffering from any mental illness. False. Only a small minority of those suffering from mental illness get a representative payee. The NRA wants you to think you get a representative payee if you're illiterate. False. No one at Social Security is going to even think about going to the trouble of appointing a representative payee merely because a person is illiterate. The NRA wants you to think that you get a representative payee if you're not good at math. False. It takes far more than that to get a representative payee. Those who are appointed representative payees are really, really sick people. I'd guess that most schizophrenics don't end up with a representative payee. People who end up with a representative payee are generally people who are very severely impaired by mental illness. We're talking about people who shouldn't be driving a car much less owning a firearm.
I've got an idea, CCD. Why don't we abolish involuntary commitment? The existence of a process which can take away a person's liberty due to mental illness creates a much greater stigma than reducing access to guns. How about it, CCD? If you're not worried about paranoid schizophrenics buying guns, why should you worry about paranoid schizophrenics who threaten to kill themselves or others? Most of those who threaten to kill themselves or others won't do it. Why do we need to stigmatize them by locking them up?