Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is digging for information on why nearly all of the names on the U.S. Justice Department’s gun ban list in the “mental defective” category belong to veterans or their dependents.
In a letter to outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Grassley questions the Obama administration’s attack on the right of all Americans, including veterans and their families, to keep and bear arms.
“It’s disturbing to think that the men and women who dedicated themselves to defending our freedom and values face undue threats to their fundamental Second Amendment rights from the very agency established to serve them. A veteran or dependent shouldn’t lose their Constitutional rights because they need help with bookkeeping,” Grassley said.
Despite the Second Amendment’s clear prohibition on all federal abrogations of the right to own and use weapons (“the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”), Congress has passed “laws” mandating that all federal agencies report names of individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System’s (NICS) “mental defective” category.
Inclusion on the list prohibits the person from ever owning or possessing a gun. The legal standard guiding when a name is supposed to be reported to the “mental defective” category is whether the individuals are a danger to themselves or others. However, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) process does not support such findings. Instead VA reports individuals to the gun ban list if an individual merely needs financial assistance managing VA benefits.
Ostensibly, the VA process was never meant to affect a veteran’s right to own, use, or possess a firearm. In practice, however, the process often results in veterans and their loved ones being barred from exercising their fundamental, constitutionally guaranteed Second Amendment rights.
Data published by Congressional Research reveals that in 2012 the VA was responsible for 99.3 percent of all “mental defective” referrals to NICS. Grassley sees gross irony in that figure, given, he says, that these are the very people who were charged with protecting the very freedom they and their families are now being denied.
Grassley is no Johnny-come-lately to the fight to restore the fundamental right to keep and bear arms to veterans and their families. In 2014, he introduced legislation that included a provision requiring a judicial authority to find individuals to be a danger to themselves or others in order to be added to the mental defective category within NICS. This legislation would have effectively overturned administrative actions by the VA to add individuals to the NICS simply because they were unable to manage their financial affairs.