Congresswoman Chellie Pingree

Representing the 1st District of Maine

Pingree will vote against weakening gun purchase background check system

Feb 2, 2017
Press Release
Says we need to do more to prevent gun violence, not less

gun violence sit-in
Pingree participated in a sit-in on the House floor to protect Congress' lack of action on gun violence last June.

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree will vote against legislation in the House today overturning an Obama Administration action that filled an important gap in reporting individuals with severe mental illness to the federal background check system used to screen individuals who are not legally allowed to possess firearms.

“Just over four years ago, we watched the tragic shooting unfold at Sandy Hook Elementary, where 20 students and six teachers lost their lives. We bowed our heads and said, ‘Never again.’ There have been 23 indiscriminate mass shootings since that day, killing 175 people, on top of thousands of other victims of gun violence,” said Pingree.  “It’s clear that we need to do more, not less, to protect Americans by preventing gun violence.  I’m appalled that Republicans are now moving to weaken the already inadequate protections we do have by overturning background check reporting for severely mentally ill individuals who are not legally allowed to purchase a firearm.” 

Background on the regulation

Issued in December, the rule in question requires the Social Security Administration to report individuals to the background check system who meet both of these requirements: 

1)    are unable to earn any income due to their mental condition, AND
2)    have been found incapable of managing their own benefits, meaning they have a representative payee.

An appeals process was included under the rule for individuals who felt they were wrongly put on the list.

Under the Congressional Review Act, the Social Security Administration will not be able to issue a similar rule for a year if this one is overturned.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibits certain categories of individuals from possessing firearms, including those with severe mental health issues. When the federal background check system was created in the 1990s, it included those who are “a danger to himself or others” or “lacks the mental capacity to contract or manage his own affairs.”  After the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, Congress enacted legislation—signed by President Bush—strengthening reporting requirements by federal agencies.