Montana's Congressman, Denny Rehberg, praised the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs for passing his Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act as a part of a larger piece of vets-related legislation today. Rehberg's bill, which was added to H.R.2349 as an amendment, protects veterans gun rights unless they are determined to be a danger to themselves or others by a judicial authority.
"Protecting our Constitutional rights is one of the most important functions the federal government undertakes, all the more so for the veterans who risked their lives in defense of those rights," said Rehberg, who has an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association and A rating from Gun Owners of America. "There are people in Washington who will stop at nothing to take away our gun rights. They're stacking the Supreme Court, they're trying to change the laws and they're using unelected bureaucrats to do it. That they would start with the men and women who served their country in the military is just wrong. I'm glad the House Veterans' Affairs Committee passed my legislation to stop this injustice once and for all."
"It is a Constitutional right to bear arms that should not, and must not, be criminalized by bureaucratic tribunal," stated Rep. Jeff Miller (FL-01), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. "Rep. Rehberg and the Committee reaffirmed that right today and we will continue to fight to ensure this right is not undermined in the VA system."
The Federal Gun Control Act prohibits certain individuals who have been adjudicated a "mental defective" from purchasing a firearm. Before a gun is sold, dealers consult the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to verify that the buyer is eligible.
The VA is required to report a veteran who has been declared mentally defective or involuntarily committed to a mental institution to the NICS, prohibiting them from purchasing a firearm. But now the VA is reporting individuals who have had a fiduciary appointed to act on their financial behalf as "mentally defective" to the NICS database, prohibiting them from exercising their 2nd amendment rights and purchasing a firearm, too.
The VA may assign a "fiduciary," generally a friend or family member, to a veteran (or their surviving spouse, dependent child or dependent parent) to handle their disability compensation, pension, or other VA payments. The veteran is assigned a fiduciary because they have been administratively declared incompetent to handle their VA compensation. The review process on placing a veteran under a fiduciary is only meant to determine their ability to handle their finances, not their right to bear arms.
Rehberg's legislation would require that for purposes of the firearm prohibition, a person subject to a mental health decision by the VA would not be considered "adjudicated as a mental defective" without a court finding that the person is dangerous. If it becomes law, a veteran who has simply been assigned a fiduciary for the purposes of their VA compensation would maintain the right to exercise their 2nd amendment rights and purchase a firearm unless a judge declares them "dangerous" and unfit to do so. Only a judicial authority, and not a Veterans Administration official, has the ability to take away their right to bear arms.
"Members of our Armed Forces who risked life and limb in defense of country are being denied their Second Amendment freedom simply because they've been appointed a fiduciary by the Department of Veteran Affairs to handle their financial affairs. These are good, honest men and women. They are not a danger to themselves, or to others, and it is wrong to deny them their constitutional freedom," said Chris W. Cox, executive director, NRA's Institute for Legislative Action. "H.R. 1898 addresses this issue and rightly ensures that veterans and their family members aren't prohibited from having guns unless they've been found to be dangerous. NRA would like to thank Rep. Rehberg for his leadership on this important measure."
"This legislation is so important for American veterans who served their country to protect our Constitituaional rights including the Second Amendment," said Hershel Gober, National Legislative Director for the Military Order of the Purple Heart. "Denny Rehberg has been a lifelong supporter of vets issues and the Second Amendment. His work to make this legislation a reality is much appreciated."