Veterans' Rights Measure Won't 'Pave Way' for Tragedy

AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File

Under the law, there are only a few ways someone can lose their gun rights. One is to be convicted of specific crimes, most of which are felonies. Another is to be adjudicated as “mentally defective,” a now-archaic term that basically means a court has determined that the person in question is either a danger to themselves or others or simply is too incompetent to be trusted to take care of themselves at all.

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Which brings us to conservatorships, because that’s kind of big news right now.

Especially after a deal was made to protect the rights of veterans in conservatorships a short time before a veteran carried out the horrific events in Lewiston, Maine.

Unsurprisingly, some are arguing that this particular measure will “pave the way” for the next tragedy.

The Kennedy Amendment was attached by Sen. John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana, to the bill funding the Department of Veterans Affairs. It limits VA’s ability to notify the FBI when a veteran has been deemed by medical professionals as mentally incompetent or incapable to manage their own affairs. Normally, any person with such a diagnosis is added to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and thus prohibited from purchasing firearms. But a majority of the Senate think that veterans should be exempt from such restrictions.

Of course, I know because I made the call and had the conversation.

I don’t think veterans should be exempt. There are more than 16 million living veterans, and despite spending more than three decades in Marine Corps and Navy uniforms, I can’t vouch for all of them. Just because someone once upon a time served in the military does not mean they should be, in perpetuity, able to purchase and possess firearms with no questions asked. Inevitably, some veterans will pose a danger to themselves or others that requires a restriction on their Second Amendment rights. It happens too often with veteran suicide, 71% of which are by gun.

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Except that’s not what the amendment does at all.

See, the problem was the VA was putting veterans in conservatorships into the NICS just because they were in a conservatorship. Yet not everyone in a conservatorship is someone who would be barred from owning guns. Often, they’re just people who need some help with financial matters.

If they weren’t just outright tricked into entering a conservatorship as NFL player Michael Oher claims he was.

What the Kennedy Amendment does, though, isn’t what’s described in the least. Veterans aren’t going to be immune from background checks or have all disqualifications removed from NICS. Those with felonies will still be included as will those who have actually been adjudicated by the courts.

Yes, many of those in the latter camp will also have conservatorships, but that’s not universal and that’s what the author doesn’t seem to grasp.

People who may need help with financial matters, for example, shouldn’t be stripped of their gun rights without the proper due process, and the courts looking at conservatorships aren’t generally ruling on other matters of competency.

But gun rights aren’t real rights to people like the author, now are they? They don’t matter, so who cares if they’re taken away because the VA decided X=Y?

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And until you can show me that people with conservatorships are somehow a danger to themselves or others beyond what we see in society as a whole, particularly among those not adjudicated as “mentally defective” nor are felons, you’re not going to convince me that they represent a danger as a whole.

There’s no evidence it will pave the way to anything except respect people’s rights for a change.

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