A group of bipartisan U.S. Senators has filed legislation to reverse the fact that some vets are losing their right to keep and bear arms because someone is handling their finances.
On Tuesday, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley — joined by fellow Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst and West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin — introduced S.2386, which could tackle how the Department of Veterans Affairs reports veterans to the FBI’s National Criminal Background Check System.
Currently, a veteran assigned a fiduciary trustee to act on their behalf is automatically declared “mentally defective” and is reported to NICS, the database Federal Firearms Licensees use to determine whether a prospective buyer is eligible to buy guns. Grassley feels to do so is a Second Amendment violation.
“Veterans are losing their Second Amendment rights because they have someone managing their checkbook,” Grassley said on the floor of the Senate.
As of Dec. 31, 2016, NICS had active records on 167,824 veterans reported by the VA for mental health reasons. This figure is down from 260,381 in 2015. Still, Grassley points out that 98 percent of the names in the gun check system listed by federal agencies for mental health reasons come from the VA alone.
Termed the Veterans’ Second Amendment Rights Restoration Act of 2018, the language of the bill would force the VA to overhaul who they report to NICS. Rather than use the fiduciary rule, similar to one proposed by the Social Security Administration and repealed by Congress, the VA would have to submit individuals to a board made up of three former judicial officers or administrative law judges or through a judicial process. While it would not automatically remove those currently reported to the FBI, those with active files would be able to challenge their classification and all would be given notice by the VA of their rights to due process.
“When a constitutional right is involved, the burden must always be on the government,” said Grassley.
The measure has been referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
Article updated at 3:54 pm EST on Feb. 8, 2018