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The VA Is Restricting Veterans’ Gun Rights Without Due Process




From The Hill Blog — The Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Affairs (VA) has placed gun restric­tions on thou­sands of vet­er­ans with­out due process, and Con­gress needs to address the mat­ter. It is quite iron­ic that under VA pol­i­cy, the men and women who pro­tect­ed our nation in the armed forces are effec­tive­ly becom­ing dis­armed by unac­count­able gov­ern­ment employ­ees.

Near­ly a decade after the failed assas­si­na­tion attempt on Pres­i­dent Rea­gan, which occurred in 1980, Con­gress passed the Brady Hand­gun Vio­lence Pre­ven­tion Act to try and pre­vent men­tal­ly ill peo­ple from com­mit­ting acts of gun vio­lence. (The law was ded­i­cat­ed to a key mem­ber of the president’s staff who was crit­i­cal­ly injured in that shoot­ing).

One gov­ern­ment pol­i­cy born from this land­mark law direct­ed the Bureau of Alco­hol, Tobac­co and Firearms (ATF) to iden­ti­fy peo­ple who were a dan­ger to them­selves or oth­ers, and to label these indi­vid­u­als “men­tal­ly defec­tive.” The ATF can now use this pow­er to make deter­mi­na­tions that cer­tain peo­ple are men­tal­ly defec­tive and thus pro­hib­it indi­vid­u­als in this cat­e­go­ry from own­ing or pur­chas­ing firearms or ammu­ni­tion.

Sev­er­al fed­er­al agen­cies, most notably the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice (DOJ), are respon­si­ble for track­ing and admin­is­ter­ing fed­er­al laws in order to pro­tect the pub­lic from gun vio­lence. The intent of these laws is to cre­ate a safe pub­lic envi­ron­ment and is for the good of soci­ety.

How­ev­er, the VA has used law to the detri­ment of many vet­er­ans in its imple­men­ta­tion of one par­tic­u­lar cat­e­go­ry of ben­e­fits (fidu­cia­ry des­ig­na­tions) and the end result has been a mas­sive gun ban for thou­sands of vet­er­ans. These actions have not been clear­ly imple­ment­ed with­in the scope of fed­er­al law or explained clear­ly enough by gov­ern­ment offi­cials to con­vinc­ing­ly alle­vi­ate con­cern that this is not sim­ply an arbi­trary bar­ri­cade to the 2nd Amend­ment with­in the vet­er­ans’ com­mu­ni­ty.

Thou­sands of vet­er­ans, for a vari­ety of rea­sons, have become unable to man­age their finan­cial affairs and may be appoint­ed fidu­cia­ries, often fam­i­ly), to receive and man­age their fed­er­al ben­e­fits (which they receive from the VA) on their behalf. Some of these vet­er­ans have sus­tained head injuries, suf­fer from mem­o­ry issues or have a vari­ety of oth­er con­di­tions enabling the gov­ern­ment to allow them to appoint some­one to help man­age their gov­ern­ment ben­e­fits.

The VA, in mak­ing the deter­mi­na­tion that a vet­er­an requires a fidu­cia­ry to help them man­age their mon­ey, is addi­tion­al­ly mak­ing the deci­sion that the vet­er­an can­not han­dle a firearm, either. The VA is not con­duct­ing an eval­u­a­tion to deter­mine whether a vet­er­an is a threat to him­self or her­self or oth­ers, requir­ing a med­ical deter­mi­na­tion ver­i­fy­ing the vet­er­an is dis­play­ing signs of vio­lence, or noti­fy­ing the vet­er­an his or her Sec­ond Amend­ment rights are being elim­i­nat­ed. The VA sim­ply reports the vet­er­an to the fed­er­al Nation­al Instant Crim­i­nal Back­ground Check (NICS) sys­tem and makes the “men­tal­ly defec­tive” judg­ment of the vet­er­an by default.

The VA is using fed­er­al laws in a man­ner that is invalid and lacks prop­er over­sight and fair­ness. Fur­ther, the Brady Act even spec­i­fied that peo­ple who suf­fer from men­tal ill­ness­es are not des­ig­nat­ed “men­tal­ly defec­tive”; there­fore, it becomes more obvi­ous that the VA has stepped out of bounds on this issue.

The VA does not pro­vide due process and no clear stan­dard exists as the agency basi­cal­ly declares a vet­er­an guilty until proven inno­cent of a con­di­tion that has not been ver­i­fied by an appro­pri­ate enti­ty (doc­tor and judge). Basi­cal­ly, if you are appoint­ed a fidu­cia­ry to help you with your mon­ey, a VA bureau­crat takes your gun rights away and the bur­den of proof is on the vet­er­an to get his or her right to pos­sess a firearm back.

I am aware of leg­is­la­tion in both the House and Sen­ate that would require a judi­cial deter­mi­na­tion ver­i­fy­ing a vet­er­an pos­es a threat to soci­ety or him­self before gun rights are elim­i­nat­ed by the VA. How­ev­er, pub­lic atten­tion to vet­er­ans’ gun rights issues has been lim­it­ed, and with­out more engage­ment from vet­er­ans nation­wide, the VA may con­tin­ue to expand its murky actions into oth­er cat­e­gories of our lives. Many legal experts I have spo­ken to do not believe the VA has the statu­to­ry pow­er to stand by these actions and con­gres­sion­al leg­is­la­tion could clar­i­fy and fix these gov­ern­ment encroach­ments.

It is not like­ly this issue will be resolved this year, as Con­gress has lim­it­ed time to fin­ish its work before the nation goes to the polls in Novem­ber. That being said, as this Con­gress clos­es and a new Con­gress is sworn in next Jan­u­ary, the issue of vet­er­ans’ gun rights must be resolved in order to make cer­tain that the men and women who defend our free­dom do not have their Sec­ond Amend­ment rights stripped away by gov­ern­ment employ­ees with­out fair and trans­par­ent due process. It would be a sad irony if the agency cre­at­ed by Con­gress to help vet­er­ans would be a bar­ri­cade toward vet­er­ans enjoy­ing the very free­dom they defend­ed.

Nei­weem is an Iraq War vet­er­an, defense and mil­i­tary pol­i­cy ana­lyst, and exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Nei­weem Group, a gov­ern­ment affairs firm. He has served as an expert wit­ness in Con­gress before both House and Sen­ate Com­mit­tees and reg­u­lar­ly appears on radio and tele­vi­sion, cov­er­ing issues that impact the mil­i­tary and vet­er­ans pop­u­la­tion.

 




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ER1C ☠

ER1C ☠

Dedicated Second Amendment Advocate, At-Home Gunsmith, Designer, Blogger, Video Guy, Author, Business Owner & ReloadOne Member.

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