Republicans want to debate gun-ownership bills that could stop some vets from losing gun rights
By ROSE L. THAYER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 23, 2019
AUSTIN, Texas — Two bills protecting the Second Amendment rights of veterans need to be debated by the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, according to Republican members of the committee, who sent a letter last week to the panel’s chairman, Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif.
The bills aim to stop some veterans from being included on lists used during background checks that could interfere with their ability to purchase or own a gun.
"These bills address serious issues affecting our nation's veterans — issues that are about as non-controversial as it gets," said Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee, the ranking Republican on the House VA committee.
H.R. 3826, or the “Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act,” would prohibit the Department of Veterans Affairs from sending information on veterans, or beneficiaries, who are assisted by a fiduciary to FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, without a judicial ruling that they are a danger to themselves or others. A fiduciary is appointed by the VA for veterans who, due to injury, disease or age, are unable to manage their own financial affairs. Medical documentation or a court order is required for a fiduciary to be appointed.
This bill is a reintroduction of similar legislation that passed the House last session but did not become law.
Hundreds of thousands of veterans have lost their right to bear arms despite a lack of evidence “that those who need a fiduciary are more prone to violence than other people,” according to Roe, the bill’s sponsor, and committee Republicans.
The second bill, H.R. 3450, called “To prohibit VA from Transmitting Certain Information to the Department of Justice for Use by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System,” was introduced by Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, and a member of the committee.
The bill is in response to H.R. 1112, or “The Enhanced Background Check Act,” which passed the House in February and amends law so that an individual “adjudicated with mental illness, severe developmental disability, or severe emotional instability” cannot possess a firearm.
Based on concerns that H.R. 1112 could increase the number of veterans that the VA is required to report to the NICS and cause millions of disabled veterans who have received a disability rating for a mental illness to lose their ability to own a firearm, H.R. 3450 would clarify a veteran’s information should not be automatically sent to the NICS because of a disability rating for mental illness.
“Our support for these bills stems from concerns that veterans might not seek VA care or benefits because they fear they will lose their Second Amendment rights,” committee Republicans wrote in their letter to Takano. “We feel strongly that a VA adjudication of service-connected disability compensation or a determination to appoint a fiduciary for a veteran is not sufficient cause to report that individual to NICS.”
Republicans did attempt to bring these amendments up for discussion during a committee hearing July 11, but Roe said in a statement that “heavy-handed tactics” were used to stifle debate. In response, Roe filed minority views on the two gun-related amendments and he is asking for a hearing once Congress returns from its August recess.
The gun-related bills were just two of several submitted by Republicans as amendments during the hearing, which focused on three bills related to a women’s health program, providing VA information in Spanish and specially adaptive housing grants.
Takano opened the July 11 committee hearing by stating he did not want to bring partisan amendments onto nonpartisan legislation and damage those bills’ potential to pass the House.