ASAN Statement on SSA Representative Payee Gun Database Rule

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The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) strongly opposes a rule proposed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that would report individuals who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), who also require the services of a representative payee, to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Specifically, a person who requires a representative payee “due to a mental impairment” would be included in NICS. NICS is used primarily as a listing of individuals that the federal government either prohibits from owning firearms, or requires that their firearms purchases be delayed until the person can contest the denial. ASAN opposes the rule because it is discriminatory– It would prohibit or make it very difficult for certain individuals with disabilities to purchase firearms solely on the basis of their disability.

SSA describes the reporting to NICS of individuals who have representative payees due to a mental disability as an easier way to determine which individuals “are a danger to themselves or others” and “lack the mental capacity to manage his or her own affairs.”[1] Such individuals are currently prohibited from possessing or distributing firearms. However, having a representative payee has nothing to do with whether an individual is dangerous or can or cannot manage their own affairs. There are individuals who have representative payees because they periodically or frequently have trouble managing their money, but are otherwise capable of managing their affairs. Nowhere is this more true than among those with intellectual or developmental disabilities, who may be strong in one area but less proficient than average in another. Furthermore, the rule may also discriminate against people with psychiatric disabilities who require representative payees.

The proposed rule is the product of a tendency in our society to link disability and violence despite a wealth of scientific evidence showing that there is no link between the two. Independent of the issue of gun ownership, the use of the representative payee database as a means of assessing incapacity constitutes a disturbing precedent which may be applied to other rights. ASAN urges the SSA to reconsider the possible negative impacts of this rule on persons with disabilities. ASAN will be submitting comments on the proposed rule to the SSA and we encourage Autistic people and our allies to do the same.[2]


[2] The proposed rule has not yet been published to the Federal Register, but you can find it and further instructions on how to comment on a proposed rule in the paragraph and link at the bottom of this page: