Missing the Forest

In late July, scores of conservative websites erupted with some variant of this headline from Breitbart: “Obama’s Secret Plan to Block Seniors on Social Security from Owning Guns.”  There were only three problems: The plan isn’t secret; it doesn’t affect all senior citizens on Social Security (and, conversely, it will affect some on Social Security who are not seniors); and it will prevent those who are affected from purchasing further weapons, not from continuing to own guns they have already purchased.

And yet, despite being much less immediately alarming, the plan may be a sign of worse things to come.

First things first: As PolitiFact.com notes, “The Social Security change did not emerge suddenly.  It stems from an executive order by Obama in January 2013 that required ‘require [sic] federal agencies to make data available to the federal background check system.’  The idea behind the executive order was to make the background check database more complete and prevent gun purchases by people who, under the law, are ineligible.”  Among those are people who are deemed “mentally incompetent.”  Each federal agency affected by the January 2013 executive order has to determine how it will comply; the Social Security Administration has decided, among other things, that “a mentally incompetent person would be categorized...

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