On Sept. 15, the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee passed an amendment by Rep. John Boozman (R-Ark.) to provide individuals receiving veterans' benefits with added protection against loss of the right to possess firearms due to mental health decisions. Rep. Boozman's amendment to a larger veterans' benefits bill was based on a bill (H.R. 2547) sponsored by Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kans.).
Currently, when a person has a fiduciary appointed to handle his or her veterans' benefits, the federal government considers that person to have been "adjudicated as a mental defective" and therefore prohibited from possessing firearms. According to Rep. Moran, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has reported the names of more than 117,000 veterans and family members to the FBI for use in instant background checks.
The injustice of this process has long been criticized both by NRA and by veterans' groups. The current system disarms veterans and others receiving benefits based on a totally administrative process and without requiring any finding that the person poses a danger to himself or herself or to anyone else. Earlier steps to fix this situation were made in the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007, which required federal agencies that make mental "adjudications" to provide processes under which those affected can apply for "relief from disabilities."
The NRA-backed amendment (also supported by major veterans' groups such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars) would provide 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. (Shockingly, but not surprisingly, the Brady Campaign opposes these changes.)
A Senate companion bill (S. 669) has been introduced by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.). In the last Congress, Sen. Burr's legislation was also adopted as a committee amendment to another bill. NRA will continue working to pass increased protections for veterans and other law-abiding Americans.