An Obama-era regulation that aimed to prevent the mentally ill from purchasing guns was quietly undone by President Donald Trump this week. The original draft of the regulation, crafted in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre that left 20 first graders dead, would have added people receiving Social Security checks for mental illness to the national background check database. The rule, which was finalized only in December, would have added approximately 75,000 names to the database had it been allowed to take full effect.
Chris Cox, the executive director of the National Rifle Association’s lobby arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, has “applauded” the move, saying it “marks a new era for law-abiding gun owners, as we now have a president who respects and supports our arms.”
The news that Trump would be making it easier for the mentally unstable to purchase guns may have been good for gun sales, but the real world cost of the move could prove significant for women. According to a recent study on abusive relationships from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, guns were brandished in one-third of all domestic violence incidents that involved an external physical weapon. Even when abusers didn’t fire the weapon, psychiatrists found the impact on a victim to be immense.
“If you have an intimate partner who has threatened you with a gun, leaving is incredibly difficult,” said Susan B. Sorenson, who headed the study. “A person might decide to stay there and stay alive.”
Nicole Beverly, 36, told The Huffington Post she had experienced the reality of that fear for herself. Despite having already suffered years of abuse from her husband, a former police officer, she said that everything changed for her after he threatened to kill her with a gun. Everytime he even mentioned the weapon, she recalled, she felt her courage to leave him fade. When she finally did leave her husband, five months after he had first threatened to use the gun against her, she said she made sure to find the weapon and take it with her.
“I didn’t feel safe leaving the relationship knowing he had it in his possession because he was threatening me with it on a regular basis,” said Beverly. “Once it was introduced into the equation, it became a tool of intimidation and fear.”