Veterans' Gun Rights Still in Anti-Gun Crosshairs

gmsjs90 / Pixabay

When you enlist, you swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. For many of us, that oath never expires. Our discharge papers don't suddenly mean we have no obligation to protect the Constitution.

That makes it pretty annoying when someone else who swore an oath not all that different from us tries to not just attack the Constitution, but to strip the constitutionally protected rights of our brother and sister veterans.

We all know that the VA was adding veterans with fiduciaries--people who help some veterans manage their financial affairs--into the NICS database. That practice has been halted, thankfully, but only temporarily.

Yet some want to remove that protection entirely.

As we noted, a rider in the “minibus” appropriations package to fund various federal agencies prohibits use of funds for such reporting unless a judge has found the veteran to be a danger to self or others. Despite the provision having been openly negotiated, passed with bipartisan support, and signed into law by Joe Biden, a partisan coalition of anti-gun congressional Democrats — all but two of whom actually voted for the spending package — is now leaning on the VA to ignore or undermine the rider. In doing so, they are using the usual anti-gun tactics of fearmongering, misinformation, and gaslighting.

The attempt came in a March 13 letter spearheaded by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA), chairman of the so-called House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, to the Secretary of the VA, Denis McDonough, and was signed by 138 Democrat members of Congress. Incredibly, Thompson had bragged of signing the minibus package and securing funding for various projects in his district only one week earlier. Such is the inexhaustible hypocrisy of politicians who not only refuse to be accountable for their own votes but who also then demand others to cover their political tracks.

The claims in the letter, unsurprisingly, do not hold up to scrutiny and in some cases actually lend support to the rider itself.

For example, the letter states: “The current process used by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to make a competency determination as required by law, includes an opportunity for appeals, helps ensure that veterans who are a danger to themselves or others are flagged in the background check system if they try to purchase a firearm.”

It's true that statutory law allows the VA to make a “competency” determination for the process of administering its own system of benefits. But that determination has no legal effect outside of that context. As the VA states on its own website, “The determination that you are unable to manage your VA benefits does not affect your non-VA finances, or your right to vote or contract.” This makes sense, as it is a purely administrative procedure that contains no adversarial process unless the beneficiary decides to challenge the action after the fact.

Precisely. That fact alone means that the VA's determination doesn't meet the requirements of due process. I'm open to the argument that the VA should be able to have someone adjudicated as mentally incompetent to own firearms, but that's not what Thompson is arguing. He thinks they should just be able to decide a veteran shouldn't have guns.

That's incredibly problematic under our system of government.

It's also likely to lead many veterans to not seek the help they're entitled to. All of us who put on the uniform did so out of love of country. The VA, however, has been a terrible experience for many of us. 

Couple that with the possibility that seeking help could lead to your name being in the NICS database as a prohibited person and there's even less reason to go to the VA for much of anything.

What happens then? What happens when they stay away and try to suffer in silence rather than risk their rights?

According to the VA, veteran suicides are down, but it still amounts to 17 veterans per day taking their own lives. How many of them wanted to seek help but were worried about their right to keep and bear arms being stripped from them? How many could have been treated and been fine if only the VA wasn't a threat to them in the first place?

My fellow veterans, particularly those who served after 9/11 or in Vietnam, Korea, or World War II, deserve far better from the nation they swore to protect.