They pledged to support and defend the Constitution, but the office of North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr says more than 100,000 U.S. military veterans may be being improperly denied one of the most fundamental rights they swore to protect.
Military veterans whose Veterans Affairs benefits are managed on their behalf by appointed fiduciary trustees are deemed “mentally defective” and reported to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), a computerized database which prohibits them from purchasing firearms.
Sen. Burr is the ranking Republican member of the Senate Committee on Veteran’s Affairs. His office told The Daily Caller that around 114,000 veterans have been reported to the NICS and are unable to purchase firearms.
Under the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, any person determined by a government authority to lack the mental capacity to manage his or her own affairs is subject to being prohibited from buying a gun.
The VA’s review process for assigning a fiduciary, however, determines veterans’ ability to manage their finances — not whether they are a danger to themselves or others. the VA assigns fiduciaries to handle disability compensation, pensions, survivors’ compensation and other VA government payments veterans’ behalf.
Sen. Burr, a Republican from North Carolina has joined with Democrat Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia to introduce the Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act, which would require a judicial authority to determine whether VA beneficiaries pose a danger to themselves or others before they can be added to the FBI’s NICS database.
“As a matter of fairness, a veteran should be permitted to purchase a firearm under the same conditions as every other American,” said Sen. Webb. “This bipartisan bill ensures consistent guidelines are used for reporting citizens to the FBI, and that no veteran is needlessly stripped of their Second Amendment rights.”
In various forms, the bill has languished in Congress for several years now, but the House passed one version last Tuesday. The legislation has the support of the National Rifle Association.
“These are good, honest men and women. They are not a danger to themselves, or to others, and it is wrong to deny them their constitutional freedom,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action. “This bill addresses this issue and rightly ensures that veterans and their family members aren’t prohibited from having guns unless they’ve been found to be dangerous.”
A VA spokesperson said that while the goals of bill were laudable, the VA sees it as unnecessary.
“We understand and appreciate the objective of this legislation to protect the firearms rights of veterans determined by VA to be unable manage their own financial affairs,” the spokesperson said. “But we believe adequate protections can be provided to these veterans under current statutory authority.”