(U.S. Senate) – Continuing his efforts to protect Montanans’ Second Amendment rights, U.S. Senator Jon Tester, Chairman of Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, took to the Senator floor today to express his strong support for the Second Amendment rights of Montana’s veterans:
“I rise in support…of Second Amendment rights for veterans in Montana and across this country,” said Tester. “It is not right that a DC bureaucrat at VA could take away a veteran’s legal right to their firearms simply because they needed assistance managing their finances.”
He continued, “I’ll tell you what a Montana advocate for veterans told me: The VA's long-standing policy to threaten veterans’ Constitutional rights who ask for help managing their affairs has been a barrier to veterans to receive help for years. It's time to end it, so veterans can reach out for the financial help they need and the mental help they need. I agree, and I don’t believe someone who has served this country needs a fiduciary to have to hire a lawyer to go back to court to get their Second Amendment rights back.”
Tester was successful in passing an amendment to the Senate’s appropriations package that would protect veterans’ access to legal firearms. The provision will prohibit federal funds from being used to report a veteran’s information to the Department of Justice’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) without an order from a judge finding that the individual is a danger to themselves or others. Reporting a veteran’s information to the DOJ for use by NICS would prohibit them from passing a background check to purchase a firearm.
The amendment is supported by Veterans Service Organizations and Montana veterans’ mental health professionals.
“The VA's long-standing policy to threaten veterans Constitutional rights who ask for help managing their affairs has been a barrier to veterans receiving help for years,” said National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Montana Director Matt Kuntz. “It's time to end it, so veterans can reach out for the financial help they need without having to worry about unintended consequences.”
The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) testified at a hearing last year: “A negative consequence of VA’s current practice is that veterans tell the VFW that they refuse to seek mental health care at VA because they fear their firearms will be taken away. This has created a significant stigma surrounding mental health and has created a barrier to care for many. This perception is difficult to change.”
“On behalf of the 1.6 million members of The American Legion, I am pleased to express support for amendment #1201 to the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act,” said The American Legion National Commander Daniel J. Seehafer. “Each veteran, regardless of disability, should maintain the right to possess a firearm unless deemed unfit to possess weapons by a judicial authority with the full benefit of due process. Any constitutional right should be protected with this same expectation of careful scrutiny, to ensure that no right is removed without due process.”
“For too long, veterans have been denied their constitutional right to gun ownership when they’ve been appointed a fiduciary by the VA, being added to the NICS database without any due process,” said Mission Roll Call’s Executive Director Cole Lyle. “Mission Roll Call thanks the members of Congress who have finally corrected this injustice - particularly the leadership of both the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees. Veterans and their families are now assured that only a proper judicial authority will be able to determine who is referred to the NICS database. Our veterans swore to protect and defend the Constitution and they deserve equal treatment under the law.”