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 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 as someone who has their finances handled by another party, known as a ‘representative payee.’”

There are, of course, many reasons short of mental incompetence why a senior citizen on Social Security might have his finances handled by another party.  Claiming such circumstances as de facto proof of mental incompetence has vast ramifications, because once one federal agency has established such a criterion, others will be free to adopt it.  And this is where those whose critical faculties end when they see the name Obama are missing the forest for the trees: With half of the American population on some form of public assistance, all of that information will feed into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Think of Republican campaign rhetoric about forcing aid recipients to change their behavior in order to continue to receive welfare or food stamps.  Now imagine a Republican president and a Republican Congress.  What happens when they’re approached by federal agencies with policies that would prevent aid recipients from purchasing guns?  To a Republican politician looking ahead to future campaigns, supporting such policies might well seem like a win-win-win: tough on welfare recipients; tough on crime; a pragmatist on gun rights.

Lost between federal agencies that want to restrict gun ownership and politicians who see an easy victory would be law-abiding citizens who are down on their luck but want to purchase a gun for hunting or to protect their family.  Their Second Amendment rights would become contingent on their dependence on federal aid.  And taxpayers who aren’t prevented from buying a gun would have little concern for tax consumers who are.  Divide and rule.