Veterans who get help with VA benefits need 2nd Amendment protections, Congressmen say

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Some veterans who need appointed help to manage their Department of Veterans Affairs benefits could have their Second Amendment rights threatened, two Congressmen say, so they’ve filed a bill to keep that from happening. 

The Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act would “prevent veterans from losing their Second Amendment right to purchase or own a firearm because they receive help managing their VA benefits,” according to a news release from Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn. 

If the VA appoints a fiduciary to help a veteran or their beneficiary manage their VA benefits, VA is required, under current law, to send that veteran or beneficiary’s name to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). A fiduciary is a trustee, or someone appointed to act in a person’s best interest, manage assets, or in this case, help manage VA benefits. 

Roe and Peterson said “hundreds of thousands” of veterans already “have been denied their constitutional right to bear arms because of this practice” and the decisions are made by VA employees, not a court or judicial authority. Peterson and Roe further allege that the current practice unfairly penalizes veterans, since it “singles out only VA beneficiaries among all government agencies.” 

The bill would prohibit VA from sending information on veterans (or beneficiaries) assisted by a fiduciary to the FBI’s background check system without a judicial ruling that “they are a danger to themselves or others,” the bill says. 

A similar bill, along with another one intended to protect veteran children from VA childcare providers charged with crimes, were originally offered by Republicans on the House Veterans Affairs Committee as amendments to other bills that Democrats on the committee blocked. Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif., ruled both proposals out of order at a recent hearing. The political fight created a visible rift in the normally bipartisan Congressional committee. Democrats told Republicans they could instead introduce standalone bills.

Now that both bills have been introduced, Roe urged Takano to put them on the committee’s schedule for a vote so they can move to the House floor. 

"These bills address serious issues affecting our nation's veterans - issues that are about as non-controversial as it gets," Roe said. "Despite the unprecedented and heavy-handed tactics used to stifle debate on them during our markup, I hope that Chairman Takano concedes to our request and schedules hearings on these bills as soon as we return from the August district work period." 

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