NBC Fears Bipartisan Repeal of Gun Law Even ACLU Opposed

On Thursday, NBC’s Today fretted over Congress reversing a discriminatory gun regulation put in place under the Obama administration that broadly banned anyone receiving mental disability Social Security benefits from buying a firearm. Despite the overturn legislation receiving bipartisan support, even from the American Civil Liberties Union, the morning show hyped “controversy” over the “heartless” move.

Correspondent Kasie Hunt led off the report by proclaiming: “It's one of the most divisive topics in America, and this morning, gun rights advocates are celebrating the rollback of an Obama-era regulation that would have added about 75,000 names to the background check database for gun sales.” She warned: “And with Republicans now in firm control of Congress, it could be just the beginning.”

The headline on screen throughout the segment announced: “Congress Allows Mentally Ill to Buy Guns; Controversy as Obama Ban Repealed.”

Hunt described: “The Republican Senate voting 57 to 43 to roll back an Obama-era gun regulation, designed to make it harder for certain people with mental disorders from buying a firearm.” However, she failed to point that the margin by which it passed meant that five Democrats voted in favor of the repeal.

She noted that “Republicans say that would have violated their Second Amendment rights,” but quickly added that “the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence calls it ‘heartless.’” She then turned to Democratic Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy to further denounce the reversal: “This is so deeply morally offensive to people in Connecticut, and frankly, anybody who’s live through these tragedies.”

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Hunt lamented that Republicans were “ushering in a new era for gun rights advocates in Washington, after President Obama spent years trying to convince Congress to pass stricter gun laws.” Following a clip of the former President making such an appeal, she mourned: “Even after tearful, emotional pleas, Congress didn't act. Now Murphy fears even more setbacks.”

The liberal lawmaker offered another rant: “I think this is just the first step. And now, the only thing that Congress has done on guns since Sandy Hook is to make it easier for very mentally ill people to get guns.”

Only at the end of the two-minute segment did Hunt reveal: “It wasn't just the National Rifle Association and gun rights groups who oppose this. The American Civil Liberties Union also argued that it would infringe on the rights of mentally disabled people and contribute to stereotypes that mentally ill people are violent.”

Thursday’s CBS This Morning offered a news brief on the topic, with fill-in co-host Anthony Mason telling viewers:

The Washington Post reports Congress approved legislation that blocks a rule to keep guns out of the hands of certain mentally disabled people. The Obama-era rule would have prevented an estimated 75,000 people from being able to buy a firearm. Gun rights groups oppose the rule. The ACLU also criticized it, saying it advanced a stereotype that people with mental disabilities are violent.

ABC’s Good Morning America did not cover the story.

Here is a full transcript of Hunt’s February 16 report:

7:13 AM ET

MATT LAUER: On Capitol Hill, the fight over gun control is back in the spotlight after the Senate voted to repeal a rule crafted in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. NBC’s Kasie Hunt has that story. Kasie, good morning to you.

KASIE HUNT: Matt, good morning. It's one of the most divisive topics in America, and this morning, gun rights advocates are celebrating the rollback of an Obama-era regulation that would have added about 75,000 names to the background check database for gun sales. And with Republicans now in firm control of Congress, it could be just the beginning.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Congress Allows Mentally Ill to Buy Guns; Controversy as Obama Ban Repealed]

In just the first month of the Trump presidency, the GOP turning their focus to the politically charged issue of gun control.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN [SENATE PRESIDENT]: The joint resolution is passed.

HUNT: The Republican Senate voting 57 to 43 to roll back an Obama-era gun regulation, designed to make it harder for certain people with mental disorders from buying a firearm. The rule was written after the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 first graders were among those murdered by a mentally disturbed man.

The regulation took years to write and was just finalized in December. It would have added people who get Social Security disability benefits for mental impairment and who are deemed unfit handle their own financial affairs to the national background check database – about 75,000 names. Republicans say that would have violated their Second Amendment rights.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY [R-IOWA]: Repealing this legislation will merely ensure that disabled citizens’s Second Amendment rights are, in fact, protected.

HUNT: But the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence calls it “heartless.” Democratic Senator Chris Murphy's constituents include Newtown parents.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY [D-CONNECTICUT]: This is so deeply morally offensive to people in Connecticut, and frankly, anybody who’s live through these tragedies.

HUNT: Today it’s on the way to the White House for President Trump's signature.

DONALD TRUMP: We are going to protect our Second Amendment, which is under siege.

HUNT: Making good on a campaign promise. And with Republicans in charge, ushering in a new era for gun rights advocates in Washington, after President Obama spent years trying to convince Congress to pass stricter gun laws.

BARACK OBAMA: Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad.

HUNT: Even after tearful, emotional pleas, Congress didn't act. Now Murphy fears even more setbacks.

MURPHY: I think this is just the first step. And now, the only thing that Congress has done on guns since Sandy Hook is to make it easier for very mentally ill people to get guns.

HUNT: It wasn't just the National Rifle Association and gun rights groups who oppose this. The American Civil Liberties Union also argued that it would infringe on the rights of mentally disabled people and contribute to stereotypes that mentally ill people are violent. Matt, Hallie?

LAUER: Kasie Hunt in Washington. Kasie, thanks very much.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is the Senior News Analyst for MRC