Common Sense for Veterans

Congress has been working on a law to prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs from adding a veteran to the National Instant Criminal  Background Check system without involving a judge or other “due process” step.  A group of senior officers from all services (united in an organization called “Veterans Coalition for Common Sense”) oppose the bill.

Officers like the ones testifying thought it was too risky for many contractors to carry a firearm in Iraq in the mid-2000’s.  DOD hadn’t done a good job of establishing a status of forces agreement, so there was no legal response for a contractor misusing a firearm.  Rather than fix the status of forces agreement, many contracts  simply denied employees access to a weapon.  Problem solved, except for the contractors who were seized and beheaded due to this policy.  I worked under such a contract and  chose to return to the US after spending six months “at risk.”

The generals and admirals are asserting that a concerned mental health professional or VA bureaucrat should have the authority to revoke a veteran’s 2d Amendment rights, in the event the bureaucrat thinks the veteran can’t manage his own finances or is otherwise mentally unstable.   The argument:  such issue reveals a veteran is “mentally defective” and shouldn’t be allowed a firearm.

I have been witness to senior officers talk about “priviledges,” not “rights,” in many cases addressing activities that private citizens cannot  be denied without due process.  While I agree a health professional who believes a patient is at risk to  him/herself  or others, should be able to initiate an efficient process to remove such risk, revocation of a right isn’t a trivial step.  A magistrate MUST be involved, whether the patient is a veteran or not, whether care is received from VA or not.

I’d argue the reason for our high suicide rates among service and former service members isn’t ready access to firearms.  What is the reason, you ask?  The existing law (called Uniform Code of Military Justice) gives too much authority to the military bureaucracy, much as these officers are suggesting for the Veterans Affairs here.  Due process means people are treated with an objective of  fairness under the law, not bureaucratic convenience or “needs of the unit.”   Common sense does not cavalierly disregard hard earned freedoms for the very men and women who gave up many of those freedoms to defend us.

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