Politics

U.S. Senate Debates Veterans' Gun Rights

| by Michael Allen

The 2013 National Defense Authorization Act recently hit an unexpected bump over an amendment on veterans’ gun rights in the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) wants veterans who have been deemed “mentally incompetent” to have their cases adjudicated by a judge, rather than the Department of Veterans Affairs, as it is done now, reports the Washington Times.

Sen. Coburn said: “We’re not asking for anything big. We’re just saying that if you’re going to take away the Second Amendment rights … they ought to have it adjudicated, rather than mandated by someone who’s unqualified to state that they should lose their rights.”

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-New York) objected to Mr. Coburn’s proposal: “I love our veterans; I vote for them all the time, they defend us. But if you are mentally ill, whether you’re a veteran or not, just like if you’re a felon, if you’re a veteran or not, and you have been judged to be mentally infirm, you should not have a gun.”

Brian Malte, with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said that if Sen. Coburn’s amendment passes, more than 100,000 people deemed medically incompetent would be able to purchase guns: “There is due process. Gun possession is allowed if competency is restored. It’s up to the professionals to make that determination.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs forwards the names of those labeled "mentally incompetent" to the FBI for inclusion in a national federal database, banning them from purchasing or carrying firearms.