Saturday, October 22, 2011

HR.2349, The Veterans' Second Amendment Protection Act

Federal law establishes several categories of persons who are restricted from possessing firearms and ammunition. Theoretically, the purpose of this legislation is to keep guns out of the hands of irresponsible persons. It is obvious that persons with criminal intent will obtain and use a gun regardless of the law. The true result of the law is that it makes gun ownership and use more difficult for responsible persons.

Among the categories of restricted persons is for those who have been adjudicated mentally incompetent. Congress wanted to ensure that rights are protected through due process of law and that only after appropriate evidence is presented and a judge is satisfied that an individual is incapable of making appropriate decisions regarding the use of a firearm should his rights be forfeited.

The Veterans Administration (VA) has an egregious policy of submitting names of veterans to the FBI for inclusion in the NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) firearms purchaser background check database when this reporting is unjustified and without due process. For example, the VA has been submitting the names of veterans who have a fiduciary appointed to manage their financial affairs as "mental defectives" who are then permanently prohibited from possessing or having access to firearms and ammunition.

The VA’s disgraceful practice is a purely bureaucratic decision – not a judicial one as required by the law! It does nothing to protect the veteran’s rights. It only punishes honorable men and women whose only crime was to volunteer to serve their country. It is a shameful assault on the veteran as well as on the intent of Congress.

It is not uncommon for a veteran with minor memory issues or problems such as compulsive buying or gambling to have themselves declared mentally incompetent to manage their own affairs and turn over control of their financial affairs to a spouse or relative to manage for them. Even if such an arrangement and diagnoses is temporary -- such as in the case of a severely wounded veteran undergoing long-term rehabilitation or comatose patients -- once the name is submitted to NICS, it is virtually impossible for them to ever regain right to arms.

The VA’s hostile policy has cause irreparable and unjustified harm to America’s war veterans. It must be stopped. The damage must be reversed immediately.

Appropriate legislation has been languishing in both houses of Congress for several years in spite of bi-partisan efforts to get it moving. Congress, therefore, is at least as culpable as are the nameless VA bureaucrats.

Last week, the House passed HR.2349 which contains language which is a small step toward repairing this assault on our veterans. The Veterans' Second Amendment Protection Act specifies that only veterans who have been adjudicated to be a danger to themselves or others are to be submitted for inclusion in the NICS database. This simple adjustment could restore firearms rights to as many as 100,000 veterans who have had their names unreasonably submitted to NICS.

This important reform is long overdue. I urge Congress and the acting president to aggressively work for immediate passage of HR.2349 with the Veterans' Second Amendment Protection language intact.

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