VA, Republicans battle over veterans' gun rights

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

I’m a veteran. I served during the time we were involved in Somalia and Kosovo, just after the Gulf War, but my butt stayed here in the United States. A lot of veterans have similar stories to me. We served during peacetime.


However, in the post-9/11 world, there are a lot more veterans who don’t have that experience.

They volunteered to serve during times of war, going off to fight our nation’s enemies, then came home. They, not unlike my late father’s Vietnam brethren, didn’t get a parade down Main Street. Their war just sort of fizzled out.

Now, though, many are facing a new enemy. The Veterans Administration, which is supposed to support veterans, has been trying to take away many vets’ right to keep and bear arms. Now, Republican lawmakers are trying to stop it.

The Department of Veterans Affairs pushed back Tuesday against a GOP effort to ease some veterans’ access to guns, arguing that doing so could hamper suicide prevention efforts.

The opposition came at a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on a bill from committee Chairman Mike Bost, R-Ill., that would bar the VA from reporting veterans who are found incapable of managing their own finances to the FBI’s national background check database without first getting a judge’s consent.

Bost, who has identified the bill as one of his top priorities as chairman, and other Republicans argue the legislation is a matter of ensuring veterans receive due process before their rights to own a gun are restricted. Further, they say, the current system could discourage veterans from seeking care at the VA if they fear their guns will be taken away.

But at Tuesday’s hearing, VA officials argued against the bill by pointing to statistics showing correlations between suicidal ideation and financial issues, and that show suicide attempts involving firearms are more lethal than other methods.


I’m sorry, but it doesn’t matter.

First, understand that it’s generally not an inability to manage one’s finances that leads to suicide attempts. It’s just money issues in and of themselves. You can balance a checkbook with the best of them, but if money ain’t there, it’s just not there, and when everyone is expecting you to fix the problem, that’s when the pressure starts.

But that’s not when the VA appoints someone to take care of a veteran’s finances. It’s not just a lack of funds that triggers this, but something entirely different.

And therein lies the problem.

See, the VA rolls in and can declare a veteran mentally incompetent and appoint someone called a fiduciary to take care of their finances. What the bill in question seeks to do, though, is require a judge to reach the same determination before stripping someone of their right to keep and bear arms.

And really, why isn’t that already the case?

The VA isn’t a court. They’re bureaucrats, essentially, and their reporting these veterans to the NICS without the veteran getting due process protection is a violation of their civil liberties.


We’d never tolerate this anywhere else or with anyone else.

So why is this a thing with our nation’s veterans? These are my brothers and sisters, the ones who stepped up during troubled times and found for our country, even if they didn’t agree with the war itself.

They damn sure deserve better than this.

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