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Can You Own a Gun While on Disability?

Here in the Midwest, it is not uncommon to own a firearm. According to a 2017 survey by the Pew Research Center, the South is the region with the most guns (about 36%), followed by the Midwest and West (32% and 31%, respectively) and the Northeast (16%). Although the Second Amendment protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms, the right to receive Social Security benefits if you are a gunowner is not necessarily guaranteed under the Constitution.

Currently, Social Security Administration does have a few reasonable restrictions on guns (an individual may not bring a firearm into a Social Security office, for example), but at present the Administration has no law in effect that prevents an individual from owning a firearm while collecting disability benefits.

In December 2016, Social Security Administration did issue a rule indicating the Administration would implement provisions of the NICS Improvements Amendments Act (NIAA) to identify disability recipients who meet certain criteria for background checks – essentially those individuals who have been adjudicated as incapable of handling their own affairs because of a mental impairment. However, in February 2017, this rule was overturned by House Joint Resolution 40 before it came into effect.

With the recent change in leadership, those applying for disability benefits under the Social Security Act may have new concerns about whether the government will allow them to keep their guns while on disability. Efforts to reduce gun violence may include reinstatement of the 2016 rule.

Generally, Social Security regulations may only be amended through special procedures governed under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), which include a notice-and-comment period. However, an executive order from the President is not subject to the APA’s procedural limitations.

If you have questions about owning a gun while on disability, you may wish to consult with an attorney or other Social Security expert as the current laws may change.

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