WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), along with 14 other cosponsors, introduced legislation that would end an arbitrary process through which the government strips veterans and other Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) beneficiaries of their Second Amendment rights. Under current practice, veterans who have a fiduciary appointed to act on their behalf are deemed “mentally defective” and are reported to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), a system which prevents individuals from purchasing firearms in the United States. The Veterans’ Second Amendment Protection Act would require a judicial authority to determine that a VA beneficiary poses a danger to themselves or others before VA may send their names to be listed in the FBI’s NICS.
“Under current law, veterans who have come to VA for help but who are determined to be unable to manage their own financial affairs are labeled as mentally defective and, on that basis alone, are denied their 2nd amendment rights,” Burr said. “I am very concerned that government employees can so easily take away a veteran’s right to bear arms. My legislation would protect the rights of veterans and their families by ensuring that only a proper judicial authority is able to determine who is referred to NICS.”
The Federal Gun Control Act prohibits certain individuals who have been deemed a “mental defective” from purchasing a firearm. Over 116,000 people who receive VA benefits have been reported to NICS since 1999, stripping them of their constitutional rights simply because VA appointed a fiduciary to act on their behalf. A fiduciary is assigned to handle disability compensation, pensions, survivors’ compensation, and other VA payments on behalf of a veteran, surviving spouse, dependent child, or dependent parent. VA's review process for assigning a fiduciary is meant to determine one's ability to manage VA-provided cash assistance. The process does not determine whether they are a danger to themselves or others.
“Taking away a Constitutional right is a serious action and veterans should be afforded due process under the law. Our veterans took an oath to uphold the Constitution and they deserve to enjoy the rights they fought so hard to protect,” Burr added.
During the 110th Congress, the Veterans’ Second Amendment Protection Act was offered by Senator Burr as an amendment at a Veterans’ Affairs Committee markup. The measure was approved in Committee but did not receive consideration by the full Senate. The bill is supported by The American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, AMVETS, and the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
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