This Friday, as we honor the courage and sacrifice of our U.S. military veterans, we should also be mindful of a terrible injustice that too many of them are forced to endure when they come home from the field of battle: the loss of their Second Amendment rights.
Today there are roughly 114,000 veterans and veterans’ family members who have had their ability to purchase a firearm in the U.S. stripped away. These are men and women who not only swore an oath to support the Constitution, but who risked their lives, lost their limbs and suffered the immense pain of separation from their families, all to defend our constitutional rights. How can this happen?
The problem arises when a veteran who is eligible for disability compensation, a pension and other benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs has a fiduciary appointed to act on his or her behalf. Under current law, these veterans are deemed “mentally defective” and their names are reported to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which prevents them from purchasing firearms in the United States.
Yet the VA’s review process for assigning a fiduciary to a veteran in no way determines whether that veteran poses any risk to himself or others. It is only meant to determine whether or not a veteran needs help managing his or her VA benefits.
Thankfully, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation last month that would eliminate this injustice, and a companion bill was recently introduced in the Senate. The “Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act” would protect all veterans from being legally judged as “mental defectives” unless a court of law finds they are actually a threat to themselves or others.
In essence, the bill would protect America’s veterans from a loss of rights that Americans who don’t get veterans’ benefits don’t have to worry about. The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action has fought long and hard for veterans’ rights on this issue, and we now look forward to continuing our fight in the Senate.
This is an issue that really hits home for us at NRA. Our organization was founded by military veterans in 1871, and our members have proudly served this nation ever since. A good number of the men and women in our current NRA family are either veterans themselves or have immediate family members who served in the military. Many of our members are also currently deployed far away from home, or have loved ones serving overseas.
So perhaps more than any other organization, 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. Our war heroes deserve the same due process under the law that all Americans enjoy, and they deserve it now.
Later this week we will come together as a nation to honor our veterans for their patriotic duty, unimaginable sacrifice and profound bravery. We should also honor them by encouraging our senators to pass the “Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act.” Our government needs to treat the constitutional rights of our veterans with the same reverence it extends to other Americans.
It’s the least we can do for those who risked their lives protecting us and defending our freedom.
Chris W. Cox is the Executive Director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) and serves as the organization’s chief lobbyist.