Now that I have your attention…
The new Defense Bill, which has a fight going due to the desire of a few politicians to, get this, protect Veterans’ rights by amending the bill.
The Department of Veterans Affairs, in all its glorious wisdom, believes in having the right to place the names of Veterans who are said to be of a certain mental state into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. This prevents anyone whose name is in the database from purchasing a firearm anywhere that conducts background checks. Furthermore, it prevents those who live under the same roof of that Veteran from owning or purchasing a firearm, as well.
There are several layers worth of stupid to peel back on this one.
First, here’s the most common argument for this kind of legislation: “hey, I’m all for gun ownership, but if someone is ruled mentally incompetent, they shouldn’t be allowed that responsibility … ” While that may seem reasonable on the surface, it’s a flawed premise for multiple reasons.
One, who judges whether a person is mentally incompetent or not? It’s one thing to have a trained psychiatrist make that claim; it’s entirely another for a counselor to put down “PTSD” on someone’s chart and have that end up in the bureaucratic black hole of the VA—a system that can’t process your claim in any reasonable amount of time but you can bet your a** they will fast-track your file to a background investigation unit.
Two, if a person is ruled incompetent by a psychiatrist, shouldn’t he or sh
e, perhaps, just maybe, have a say in it? We have these things called “courts” you see…
That is exactly what Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) is fighting for currently. He wants Veterans to have their day in court before their “fundamental right given under the Constitution” is taken away, and is proposing amendments to the Defense Bill providing for that very thing.
But that’s not how things are now. Under the current system, a Veteran can lose their right to own a firearm simply by receiving a PTSD diagnosis and having it handed over to the BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) or their name placed in the national criminal database. And therein lays the bigger issue in this topic that needs to be addressed.
I don’t care how psychologically troubled a veteran is; I don’t care if they can’t tie their own shoes anymore; I don’t care if they can’t pay their own bills; I don’t care if they can’t feed themselves; I don’t care if they are being fed from a tube or if they are in a wheel chair:
NONE OF THESE THINGS IN ANY WAY MAKES THEM CRIMINALS.
This, my friends, is why any discussion on this topic is completely flawed from the beginning—the very fact that there is a “criminal database” that someone’s name would go into prior to them ever committing a crime is demonstrably wrong on both the ethical and Civil Rights levels of government. The idea that a Veteran—someone who has sacrificed for their country—would be labeled as a criminal for doing nothing other than that sacrifice is an injustice, to be sure. Yet somehow, when concerning the topic of the Second Amendment, that injustice is seen as perfectly reasonable.
Well, it’s not. Stop and consider this scenario: let’s say you come back from Iraq or Afghanistan and, after reporting having trouble sleeping to a few counselors and that you’ve had more than a few bottles of whiskey, you have a “PTSD” label on your packet and it is forwarded on to a database. Fast forward a couple months and, as your life has had some new changes in it, you decide to stop attending the church of which you are currently a member. Upon that declaration, a couple of suits show up at your door and say “sorry, we can’t let you stop going to this church. You’re not mentally capable of making that decision, due to your PTSD diagnosis.”
Sound ridiculous? It should, but here’s the kicker…it’s no more or less absurd than doing the same thing with Second Amendment liberties as opposed to those outlined in the First Amendment. Yet, that’s exactly what passes for “reasonable” in this country. If there’s an attack on free speech or if the government even hints at endorsing a particular religion, the ACLU and any number of other organizations will run a full-on Blitzkrieg-style operation against the perpetrators; if it’s against gun rights, well… it’s for the sake of the children!
It does not take a legal scholar to have a fundamental understanding of what the Second Amendment was designed for and a fairly solid knowledge of case law surrounding the right as it pertains to individuals. Rest assured, we have fallen a long way from that concept; especially if those who have paid a price of blood and sweat to defend it are forced to give it away for the rest of their lives simply due to bureaucrats’ definition of what is “reasonable.” Making matters worse is the fact that families of Veterans have their rights trampled on, as well.
The VA, lest you think there is any hope that theirs is a logically defensible position, defended their stance by stating that a Veteran can appeal the decision regarding their rights and petition to have them restored. Oh, well in that case, I totally understand…
You have got to be kidding me. I’m guessing there are a solid percentage of people reading this who have dealt with or are currently dealing with submitting a claim to the VA. How long have you been at it? How would you feel if you were presumed guilty, labeled a criminal, and then told you could “petition” to have your rights restored by an agency that moves with the speed of a three-toed tree sloth, all over something you were never even given a day in court for?
I can—and often will—go on at great lengths regarding this subject, as it has the potential to travel down a number of paths. However, what is important to remember here are two primary things:
1) As it stands now, the current system has Vets (as well as their family members) being labeled as criminals simply based on the recordings of the VA. This must stop, and the only way to do so is to stand behind people like Senator Tom Coburn and put pressure on others to support him, as well.
2) This argument doesn’t go away by making claims about whether guns are or are not safe. That is irrelevant. What is most certainly relevant is that the Second Amendment be viewed as equal to the First, Third, and the remaining Amendments in the Bill of Rights.
The VA is slow, inept, and in some cases cause more harm than good.
Get active; give them a call and let them know where you stand on this. The fact that a Veteran can be placed into a criminal database without ever being convicted of a crime is unacceptable on many levels, but this starts with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Make your voices heard. Tell your representatives to support bills like the one Senator Coburn is proposing to protect Veteran’s rights.