I saw this article from Vox, Why disabilities rights activists like me sided with the NRA on an Obama gun control rule, and it blew my mind.
At first, I thought is was going to be typical Vox.
As a liberal disability rights activist who worked closely with the Clinton campaign and continues to fight Trump, I tend to be on the side of those condemning actions by the congressional GOP. But this time, I and my disability rights colleagues found myself in an unusual position: siding with the Republicans and, yes, the National Rifle Association.
Here we go, an admitted liberal talking about working with the GOP and NRA like she attended a clan rally. I feel so bad for her being exposed to so many terrible people with their Nazi ideas.
Because while congressional Democrats have been admirable allies to the disability community on the vast majority of issues, when it comes to gun violence, both parties use people with mental illness as props — in ways that don’t help public safety, and that put vulnerable people at risk. In this case, it was the Democrats that got the issue wrong.
Her lockstep seems to be faltering.
Predictably, in the run-up to the debate, gun-control groups and gun-rights groups lined up on opposite sides of the issue. But disability rights groups and civil rights organizations were also concerned that the rule lacked a solid connection to public safety and might serve to restrict the rights of people with mental disabilities in other areas.
The light begins to dawn. A liberal understand the argument of a slippery slope of lost rights. First they figure out how to take your gun rights without due process and the next thing you know you can be imprisoned without trial, can’t vote, or can’t practice any of your other Constitutionally protected rights.
Around the same time, a coalition of 11 major disability rights groups issued a similar warning, expressing concern that such a measure might set a dangerous precedent going well beyond the issue of gun violence.
Just like the how the “No Fly List” was not the same thing as the Terror Watch List, having a representative payee is not the same thing as being adjudicated mentally ill or defective.
But far from implying an individual is permanently incapacitated, a representative payee is often used as a less restrictive alternative to a court declaration that an individual is incompetent to manage his or her own affairs. Representative payees are used in a broad variety of circumstances, from an aging grandmother delegating finances to a child to an autistic young adult, or a middle-aged man with an anxiety disorder, choosing a representative payee to help them make sure their rent and utility bills get consistently paid on time.
Grandpa has a hard time remembering to pay his bills on time and forgets where he puts his car keys. That doesn’t mean that Grandpa can’t take the Grandkids out with the Cricket Rifle to teach them to shoot.
During my time at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, I heard from a number of autistic adults who were concerned that their use of a representative payee would prevent them from taking part in hunting and other aspects of rural culture involving firearms.
Wow, people want to enjoy their rights and hobbies even if they have a mental condition that make it hard for them to be fully functioning adults but is not a threat to their safety or the safety of others. Who’d of thunk it?
Still, despite that, the primary reason I and other disability advocates opposed the Rep Payee rule is less about guns than it is about the precedent the rule might set for other kinds of rights.
Disability advocates are concerned with setting the precedent that needing help with financial matters implies a lack of capacity to exercise other rights. These concerns are rooted in discrimination people with mental disabilities face in other areas of life, such as parenting and voting rights. On these issues, people with mental disabilities often face an assumption of incapacity, forcing disability and civil rights advocates and attorneys to fight to overturn assumptions that a diagnosis or determination of support need in one area should lead to a loss of rights in an unrelated area.
I read this and almost had stroke. It is such a logical and reasonable argument that I’m surprised that Vox published it. I think it was an accident.