PolitiFact's Failed 'Debunking' Of Obama's Social Security Gun Grab

Who fact checks the fact checkers?

Yesterday afternoon, Politifact made the claim that several “conservative bloggers” who blasted the Obama Administration’s new Social Security  gun ban scheme were grossly overselling the story.

“SPREAD THIS: Obama Makes Huge Move to BAN Social Security Recipients From Owning Guns,” read the headline in the Conservative Tribune.

Breitbart, another conservative website, declared: “Obama’s Secret Plan to Block Seniors on Social Security from Owning Guns.”

Other websites qualified their message by referring to “some Social Security recipients,” and some cited a specific figure — 4.2 million — as the number of people that would be unable to own guns.

We were curious to see how all these claims stacked up, so we dug into the evidence.

They then claimed to “fact check the story, and came to the conclusion:

Bloggers such as the Conservative Tribune wrote headlines like this one: “SPREAD THIS: Obama Makes Huge Move to BAN Social Security Recipients From Owning Guns.”

This is a vast exaggeration of the actual policy under consideration. It would not affect all Social Security recipients, but rather those who have already been declared mentally incompetent, and thus ineligible under current law from purchasing a gun. And it is targeted at blocking gun purchases, not taking away guns from people who already have them. Only in California could the policy lead to increased gun seizures, and only — potentially — for mentally incompetent residents of the state who would be newly added to the background check database.

Obama has not made a sweeping move to disarm gun-owning senior citizens, as these websites claim. We rate the claim False.

To draw that conclusion,  “fact checker” Christian Belanger determined:

The new policy would not ban all Social Security recipients from owning guns. Rather, it would only affect the small fraction who are deemed mentally incompetent, and who are thus are barred from purchasing guns under the law.

The policy is not yet in force. When we reached out to the Social Security Administration, a spokesman responded, “We are still developing our policy.”

In developing the plan, the Social Security Administration is following the lead of another federal agency, the Veterans Administration, which is already sharing names with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The Social Security Administration’s policy is expected to be similar.

The policy would not take away guns from people who already own them. There is no indication that this policy would take guns away from people who already own guns. Rather, the policy would affect the ability of some mentally incompetent people from buying new guns.

Belanger’s very definition of whom would be affected is incorrect. He claims that the “mentally incompetent” would be barred from purchasing firearms, which is a very loaded phrase, which simultaneously means nothing.

The people who are affected, as we noted in our coverage, are those souls who have been declared “financially incompetent,” and that is a whole other kettle of fish entirely.

The liberty-hating Obama Administration isn’t coming for your guns, except when they are:

Seeking tighter controls over firearm purchases, the Obama administration is pushing to ban Social Security beneficiaries from owning guns if they lack the mental capacity to manage their own affairs, a move that could affect millions whose monthly disability payments are handled by others.

The push is intended to bring the Social Security Administration in line with laws regulating who gets reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, which is used to prevent gun sales to felons, drug addicts, immigrants in the country illegally and others.

A potentially large group within Social Security are people who, in the language of federal gun laws, are unable to manage their own affairs due to “marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease.”

But critics — including gun rights activists, mental health experts and advocates for the disabled — say that expanding the list of prohibited gun owners based on financial competence is wrongheaded.

Though such a ban would keep at least some people who pose a danger to themselves or others from owning guns, the strategy undoubtedly would also include numerous people who may just have a bad memory or difficulty balancing a checkbook, the critics argue.

“Someone can be incapable of managing their funds but not be dangerous, violent or unsafe,” said Dr. Marc Rosen, a Yale psychiatrist who has studied how veterans with mental health problems manage their money. “They are very different determinations.”

Roughly 2.7 million of those receiving SSA benefits have mental health concerns, but according to the L.A. Times, 1.5 million others have their finances managed for others reasons, yet would still be targeted by Obama’s gun grab.

This “broad brush” approach appeals to the Obama Administration because it will deny gun rights to the largest possible segment of Americans possible by executive fiat, with little recourse for those affected.

The figure of 4.2 million people being targeted by this policy change is factually accurate. The fact that is targets people who are ruled financially incompetent, and not mentally incompetent, is a major difference.

Poltifact is dead wrong in their so-called ‘fact check,” and it isn’t the first time the Tampa Bay Times has been grossly biased to flat-out dishonest in their defenses of gun control.

We’ve nailed them in the past for their deceptions on smart guns and the Obama Administration’s attempt to ban common M855 practice ammunition.

Who fact checks the fact checkers?

We do.

And we’re less than impressed with what we see.

Update: As our friend @TheH2 points out via Twitter, Politifact was also deceptive in their third bullet point, when they claim those who currently own guns but who were declared incompetent wouldn’t have their gun right swept aside wholesale.

We should have caught that, but hey, we haven’t had our morning coffee yet.

Sep 28, 2021 2:30 PM ET