GOP targets veterans gun ban

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The Obama administration is facing congressional scrutiny for blocking more than a quarter-million military veterans from owning guns.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has reported more than 257,000 former members of the military who cannot manage their finances to the FBI’s list of people who are not allowed to own guns, Republicans claim, even though "it has nothing to do with regulating firearms.”

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"The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is effectively a national gun ban list and placement on the list precludes the ownership and possession of firearms,” Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonGrassley pulling away from Dem challenger Fifteen years since pivotal executive order, STORM Act could help fight terror finance GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase MORE (R-Ga.) and Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyThe Trail 2016: Fight night Clinton, Trump tied in Iowa, Grassley leads in Senate race Senate rivals gear up for debates MORE (R-Iowa) wrote in a recent letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald.

The VA is responsible for appointing a fiduciary to help veterans who it determines cannot manage their own finances, but the agency is also taking the additional step of reporting these veterans to the “mental defective” category of the FBI’s background check system, even if they do not pose a danger to society, the senators allege.

The senators called the practice “highly suspect” and said veterans' ability to manage their own finances is “totally unrelated” to whether they should be prohibited from owning a gun.

"Under the current practice, a VA finding that concludes a veteran requires a fiduciary to administer benefit payments effectively voids his Second Amendment rights,” the senators wrote.

"At no time in the process does the VA determine a veteran to be a danger to themself or others, a key determinant for whether someone is a 'mental defective,’ precluding the right to own firearms,” they added.

In a separate letter to Senate appropriators, Grassley requested lawmakers block the VA from continuing this practice in the upcoming budget negotiations.

Grassley also complained about the practice in another letter sent last year to the Justice Department.

Republicans hope the congressional inquiries will pressure the VA to stop the practice.

The VA noted in a statement to The Hill that it is legally required to report veterans who are "mentally incompetent" to the FBI, which then decides whether to prohibit these former soldiers from owning guns.
 
"From time to time, media has reported that VA 'confiscates' veterans' firearms," a VA spokesman said in a statement. "This is simply not true. VA has no authority to confiscate or 'seize' anyone’s firearms."