Stymied by the American people and their elected representatives in attempts to enact the type of sweeping legislative gun control they desire, the gun controllers in the federal government sometimes lash out at the Second Amendment rights of those who fall more directly under their control. The most grotesque manifestation of this practice occurs when the federal government attacks the right to keep and bear arms of those who have volunteered to bear arms in defense of the country. The publication of a recent Department of Defense-funded report about soldiers and suicide raises concerns about new efforts to undermine service members’ Second Amendment rights.
Titled Preventing Suicide in the U.S. Military: Recommendations from the Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee, the document encourages the federal government to implement gun control measures aimed specifically at service members. The recommended gun control measures read like an anti-gun organization wish-list and are as follows:
- Implement a 7-day waiting period for any firearm purchased on DoD property.
- Develop a national database for recording serial numbers of firearms purchased on DoD property.
- Implement a 4-day waiting period for ammunition purchases on DoD property to follow purchases and receipt of firearms purchased on DoD property.
- On DoD property, raise the minimum age for purchasing firearms and ammunition to 25 years.
- Establish command notification procedures when a service member or family member who lives on DoD property purchases a firearm on DoD property.
- Require anyone living on DoD property in military housing to register all privately owned firearms with the installation’s arming authority and to securely store all privately owned firearms in a locked safe or with another locking device.
- Prohibit the possession of privately owned firearms that are not related to the performance of official duties on DoD property by anyone who does not live on DoD property.
- Establish DoD policy restricting the possession and storage of privately owned firearms in military barracks and dormitories.
The report also demands that Congress undermine a statute that protects service members’ Second Amendment rights and privacy. Specifically, the authors want changes that would allow the Department of Defense to collect information on soldiers’ privately-owned firearms that are wholly unconnected to their service in the armed forces.
This recommendation is particularly telling of the authors’ gun control aims. The existing statutory language provides,
Except as provided in subsection (c), the Secretary of Defense shall not prohibit, issue any requirement relating to, or collect or record any information relating to the otherwise lawful acquisition, possession, ownership, carrying, or other use of a privately owned firearm, privately owned ammunition, or another privately owned weapon by a member of the Armed Forces or civilian employee of the Department of Defense on property that is not--
(1) a military installation; or
(2) any other property that is owned or operated by the Department of Defense.
The mentioned “subsection (c)” already allows for inquiry about privately-owned firearms in cases where there is a risk of suicide. That exception makes clear that the general prohibition on firearm data collection does not prohibit,
a health professional that is a member of the Armed Forces or a civilian employee of the Department of Defense or a commanding officer to inquire if a member of the Armed Forces plans to acquire, or already possesses or owns, a privately-owned firearm, ammunition, or other weapon, if such health professional or such commanding officer has reasonable grounds to believe such member is at risk for suicide or causing harm to others.
Sadly, the federal government using its leverage over current and former service members to pursue a gun control agenda is nothing new.
Longtime gun rights supporters will know that the Department of Veterans Affairs has been reporting former service members to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System based on how they receive their well-deserved benefits.
Federal regulation allows the VA to determine whether its beneficiaries need a “fiduciary” to manage their benefits. Veterans who the agency determines need help administering their VA compensation are then labeled “mental defectives” and reported to NICS to be barred from firearm acquisition and possession, alongside the likes of felons, fugitives, and the dishonorably discharged.
The process of assigning a fiduciary, however, does not require the VA to consider whether the veteran actually poses a danger to himself or others or is seriously functionally impaired in any other respect. Indeed, the VA’s own website states, “The determination that you are unable to manage your VA benefits does not affect your non-VA finances, or your right to vote or contract.”
Needless to say, it’s completely untenable that America’s military men and women must choose between what’s best for their medical care and financial management and the fundamental civil liberties their own service protects. The fact that a veteran’s spouse or other loved one is more financially astute or is simply more accustomed to maintaining the household finances is completely irrelevant to the veteran’s ability safely and responsibly to handle firearms.
This disgusting procedure has even been extended to those who receive VA benefits in relation to a loved one who has passed away. In 2015, the Daily Caller reported on the case of a Vietnam War widow whose rights were stripped after making a request to the VA for assistance in obtaining someone to help with her household chores after she suffered a mild stroke.
NRA-ILA will continue to work with our allies in Congress to help protect the Second Amendment rights of U.S. Service Members.
Moreover, NRA-ILA encourages gun owners outside the military community to take just as much interest in these issues as current and former service members. With these actions, gun control advocates are making clear exactly what sort of restrictions they would apply to the population at large and how they will abuse any portion of the government to undermine the right to keep and bear arms of those who fall under specific federal jurisdiction in the meantime. Depriving them of any authority to do so is crucial to preserving the Second Amendment right.