A resolution to protect veterans’ Second Amendment rights by countering the label “mentally defective” for anyone who gets help managing government benefits was approved recently by the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act—also known as HR 1181—passed the House March 16 by a 240-175 vote. Now the U.S. Senate is considering the measure.
HR 1181 is very similar to a recent resolution that stopped an Obama administration directive to the Social Security Administration. That order required the SSA to notify the national gun background check system about certain people with mental challenges who need help managing their government benefits.
The order to SSA was made last December in Obama’s final weeks in office. President Donald Trump, however, signed the resolution ending the directive to SSA soon after he took office.
Like the former SSA policy, the Veterans Administration requires that veterans be appointed someone to help manage their benefits (a fiduciary) if they’re considered mentally incompetent to do that on their own.
Next, the VA automatically sends the vet’s name to the National Criminal Background Check System operated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which can prevent someone from buying or owning guns.
But Rep. David “Phil” Roe, R-Tenn., the resolution’s sponsor, said some mental conditions, such as traumatic brain injuries (TBI), don’t necessarily mean a veteran is a threat.
Balancing a checkbook might be the only help someone with TBI needs, said Roe, a medical doctor by profession, a former Army physician, and chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., led the opposition against the resolution. Esty, also a member of the veterans affairs committee, said she was concerned HR 1181, if approved, would not help veterans who consider taking their own lives.
“As this House knows all too well, there is a veterans suicide crisis in this country, a crisis that is enabled by the easy access to firearms,” she said during the House debate.
HR 1181, however, clarifies that it’s the responsibility of a magistrate or another judicial authority to decide whether someone is a threat to themselves or others, not a VA bureaucrat, Roe said during the debate.
And, he added, “there are serious, unintended consequences when VA appoints a fiduciary.”
“As you know,” he continued, “anyone whose name is on the NICS list is legally prohibited from possessing a firearm. This means that the veteran can no longer participate in sports like hunting or target shooting.
“The veteran is also legally obligated to relinquish any firearms he or she owns, including collector’s pieces and family heirlooms.”
Roe praised the House for passing the resolution and moving it to the Senate.
“I’m proud to stand with my colleagues in passing this important legislation that ensures no veteran who utilizes a fiduciary will lose their Second Amendment rights without due process,” Roe said.