Should a veteran’s inability to handle his financial affairs deprive him of his Second Amendment rights? Each time the question has come before Congress, Democrats have said yes. Republicans and the National Rifle Association say no.
The issue threw a monkey wrench in last week’s debate on a $631 billion defense bill.
The Veterans Affairs Department routinely adds the names of vets needing financial assistance to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, denying them the right to purchase or own a firearm, according to an Associated Press report.
U.S. Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., are on opposite sides of the fence on the issue. The vets haven’t been declared mentally incompetent in the traditional sense, but rather incompetent in handling their own financial affairs.
“I love our veterans, I vote for them all the time. They defend us,” Schumer said, according to the AP. “If you are a veteran or not and you have been judged to be mentally infirm, you should not have a gun.”
The AP reported:
Currently, the VA appoints fiduciaries, often family members, to manage the pensions and disability benefits of veterans who are declared incompetent. When that happens, the department automatically enters the veteran’s name in the Criminal Background Check System.
A core group of lawmakers led by Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., has for several years wanted to prohibit the VA from submitting those names to the gun-check registry unless a judge or magistrate deems the veteran to be a danger. This year’s version of the bill has 21 co-sponsors. It passed the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee by voice vote, a tactic generally reserved for noncontroversial legislation. Coburn’s amendment to the defense bill contained comparable language.
“All I am saying is, let them at least have their day in court if you are going to take away a fundamental right given under the Constitution,” Coburn said in the Senate debate last week, the AP reported.
Of the 127,000 veterans added to the gun-check registry since the FBI launched the system on Nov. 30, 1998, only 185 have petitioned to have their names removed from the list. Nonetheless, veterans groups and the National Rifle Association express strong support for Coburn’s efforts.
“We consider it an abject tragedy that so many of our veterans return home, after risking life and limb to defend our freedom, only to be stripped of their Second Amendment rights because they need help managing their compensation,” NRA lobbyist Chris Cox wrote in an editorial published last year.
Former Navy SEAL Dom Raso agrees in the following video commentary from the NRA:
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