In the wake of the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Tex., a number of media outlets misled their audience on the Trump administration’s reversal of a mental health-related gun regulation from late in the Obama administration.
Reporters for CNN, NBC News, and other outlets have framed the February action as President Trump making it easier for those with mental health issues to obtain firearms in recent days.
“In February, we should also mention, that President Trump did make it easier for mentally unstable people to get their hands on guns,” CNN’s Alisyn Camerota said during a segment on Tuesday.
Some have gone so far as to suggest that the regulation in question could have prevented the Texas shooter from purchasing firearms.
“It isn’t clear whether the now-eliminated rule would have applied to the gunman in the Texas church shooting, identified as Devin Patrick Kelley,” NBC News’s Adam Edelman wrote on Monday. “Kelley had a turbulent past, including a court-martial from the Air Force for assaulting his first wife and child, an animal cruelty arrest and a habit of harassing ex-girlfriends.”
However, there is no evidence that Kelley—who was already prohibited from purchasing firearms due to his domestic violence conviction but was able to purchase guns due to a failure by the Air Force—was ever in the program affected by the regulation, which was opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union and disability rights activists in addition to gun-rights activists.
The regulation in question was adopted in December 2016 and went into effect on January 18, 2017, after the election of President Trump but before his inauguration two days later. Compliance with the rule was scheduled to begin on December 19, 2017. Before compliance ever began, however, the rule was repealed by a law passed through the House of Representatives and Senate, then signed by President Trump in February 2017. The regulation never had any effect.