Veterans will now be prohibited from being placed on a no-gun list by the Department of Veteran Affairs, even if the VA considers the veteran to be suffering from mental illness, according to a controversial bill that just passed the House.
As reported by Stars & Stripes
The House voted 240-175 approving the Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act, which will now go to the Senate. Critics of the bill said it would make it easier for veterans with mental illnesses to access firearms, which would increase risk of suicide and pose a danger to families.
“It’s going to result in more deaths, more suicides of veterans throughout this nation,” retired Navy Capt. Mark Kelly said Thursday on a call with reporters. “It weakens our background-check system and makes our country a less safe place.”
As critics point out, 20 veterans kill themselves a day, largely by way of gun-assisted suicide.
The bill’s defenders argue however that the criteria for classifying veterans as having a mental illness has nothing to do with whether he or she is capable of responsible gun-ownership, and is therefore robbing veterans of their Second Amendment rights without due process:
Under current law, the Department of Veterans Affairs considers veterans who cannot manage their VA benefits and need another person to help with their finances as “mentally incompetent.” The department reports the names of those veterans to the FBI, which adds them to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System – the national database that gun merchants are required to check before selling a firearm.
The bill would do away with that practice, and instead require the court system to determine whether veterans pose a threat to themselves or others before they’re added to the database.
This is good news, according to the bill’s mostly Republican supporters:
“What it says [is] if you can’t balance a bank account, you can’t handle a firearm. There is no relation between the two,” said Rep. Ken Buck, R-Fla., who also spoke in favor of the bill. “So many people have been trapped by this overbroad rule.”
If the bill passes the Senate, President Trump has signaled that he will sign the bill into law.